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What Is the Feres Doctrine?


In the United States, medical error is one of the leading causes of death for American adults, next to heart disease and cancer. That’s why every state in the nation allows for victims of medical error to pursue a lawsuit, on the grounds of medical malpractice. However, if you’re on active duty in the U.S. military, you are not currently entitled to the same medical malpractice rights as civilians, due to a 1950 Supreme Court decision known as Feres v. United States, or the “Feres Doctrine.”

Under the Feres Doctrine, military service members have been limited in their ability to bring a civil lawsuit against negligent medical practitioners. Now, service members across the country are starting to demand that lawmakers amend this outdated rule once and for all – and Army Sergeant 1st Class Richard Stayskal is leading the charge for this important legislative battle.

Pushing for Change on the Feres Doctrine

A former Green Beret who was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Richard Stayskal suffered a series of medical errors in the military before receiving his final diagnosis. Stayskal began experiencing severe respiratory problems in March 2017, and would become fatigued and breathless during his routine training exercises at Special Forces Dive School. From there, his symptoms progressed into full-force wheezing, blurred vision, and coughing up blood.

Even after several trips to visit military doctors and military emergency rooms, Stayskal’s doctors failed to diagnose a significant mass on his lung – one that was clearly visible on his CT scan in January 2017. By June of that year, a civilian doctor finally exercised due diligence and diagnosed him with lung cancer, which had already metastasized by that point.

Alleging that his lung cancer could have been diagnosed and treated at least 6 months earlier, Sgt. Stayskal took action, working with a Weston law firm and Representative Jackie Speier of California to introduce a new bipartisan bill to Congress: The Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019. If passed, this law would create an exemption for active duty military members, and allow them to sue the federal government over instances of medical malpractice.

Experienced Medical Malpractice Representation

At Rash Mueller., we’ve seen firsthand the toll that medical malpractice can take on human life. When doctors do not apply the right standard of care to their patients – regardless of whether that patient is a civilian or an active duty service member – they should be held accountable for that action. By allowing our men and women in uniform to receive the same legal rights as civilians, the proposed legislation could make it easier for affected families to seek justice.

If you need assistance with a complex medical malpractice claim, our team can help you fight for recovery. Call (954) 914-7116 today.

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