Source:  change.org

Petition to Congress to Amend the Federal Tort Claims Act:

To the Honorable Members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate:

We the undersigned join together in respectfully urging you to enact legislation that will amend the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) (28 U.S.C. Chapter 171) to allow our members of our military to have a right to pursue a medical malpractice claim, just like any other American has the right to pursue a claim for medical malpractice. 

The Feres Doctrine is an antiquated exception to the FTCA that arose from a 1950’s Supreme Court decision that bars claims for “injuries arising out of or [occur] in the course of activit[ies] incident to service”. Feres v. United States (1950) 340 U.S. 135. This draconian law prohibits service members and their families from bringing a medical malpractice claim or wrongful death claim against a military hospital responsible for the injury or ultimate death of the service member. 

The main issue that we would like Congress to address with the Feres Doctrine is that the Court’s interpretation has broadened the scope of the exception currently codified in the FTCA to encompass injuries that occur from noncombatant activities in a time of peace. The Feres Doctrine ignores the plain language of the FTCA and has led to unfair, absurd, and inconsistent results that treat service members differently than the rest of us. Most commonly, the Feres Doctrine has been used as an unfair defense that military medical personnel hide behind when such personnel fail to provide the basic care that would save a person’s life just because they are on active duty. 

Sgt. First Class (SFC) Richard Stayskal’s story is a perfect example of the inequality that our service members and their families encounter due to the Feres Doctrine. We believe that a result of Fort Bragg Womack Army Medical Center’s failure to notify SFC Stayskal and remove the tumor that was noted on a CT scan taken in January 2017, a 36-year old U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret now has stage four metastatic cancer and will leave a wife and two young daughters without a father.

Four months after his January 2017 CT scan, SFC Stayskal was rushed to Womack’s Medical Center after exhibiting severe respiratory issues, including coughing up blood. There, the military’s doctors conducted a retrospective review of his January CT scan and noted an abnormality/mass that needed attention and advised that a biopsy be taken. Instead of informing SFC Stayskal and his wife of this or expediting a pulmonary follow-up appointment, Womack discharged SFC Stayskal telling him he had pneumonia. After being told that he would have to wait at least one month to see a pulmonologist on base, SFC Stayskal was finally approved to see a civilian doctor in June 2017 and had a new CT scan taken. It was at that time that he and his family finally found out what was wrong. We believe the failure of the military’s doctor’s gross failure to detect and treat SFC Stayskal’s cancer when they took his first CT scan in January 2017 is the mistake that allowed the aggressive tumor to double in size and metastasize. And now SFC Stayskal and his family have no recourse due to the Feres Doctrine.

This is a very important issue, especially to the military and Veteran communities. We need Congressional intervention to change this unfair doctrine that has stripped hundreds of service members and their families of the same rights that all other citizens of our Country have when it comes to medical malpractice.

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