Monday, February 9, 2009

Suicides in the military part 2

Last week I posted a note on a recent report on the rates of suicides among the armed forces. See here. Today, Prof. Jonathan Turley comments on one specific case: "As Congress struggles to understand the shocking report of a massive increase in suicides in the Army, they might want to study the case of Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman to see how some officers treat soldiers in mental distress. Lieberman was experiencing severe mental problems after a year in Iraq . . . When he tried to kill himself, he wrote his suicide note on the wall in his room. The Army reportedly responded to the suicide attempt by charging him criminally and cut a deal with this mom. If she re-painted the wall, his charges would not include defacing of government property. After she painted the wall with the help of her handicapped sister, they charged him anyway with the crime. . . . . Under this logic, if a soldier jumps from a window and splatters over a bench or crushes a car’s roof, they would be guilty of the same offense if they survive. The military continues to enjoy immunity from tort lawsuits under the infamous Feres Doctrine [which prohibits military personnel from suing the government for injuries that occur in service.] In the case of private employers ignoring the signs of mental illness and self-medication that the mother has described, there would be a serious threat of liability. Ultimately, most suicide attempts are not treated as a matter for liability for an employer. However, Feres has been blamed for decades in producing a lack of response or concern in many cases." Note to my students: we will discuss the Feres Doctrine in class as part of our discussion of the Federal Torts Claims Act -- the act that recognizes a limited right to sue the Federal Government arguing tort liability.

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