Repeal of Feres Doctrine will prevent military doctors from using service members as test dummies

Fort Sam Houston – Military doctors recently appealed to Congress to not repeal the Feres Doctrine, a legal doctrine that prevents people who are injured as a result of military service from successfully suing the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Recently, a Special Forces Sergeant First Class petitioned to overturn the Feres Doctrine. SFC Stayskal was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after having been mis-diagnosed at a military hospital, and he was not allowed to sue the government due to the stipulations outlined in the Feres Doctrine.

While the doctrine wasn’t fully overturned, Stayskal’s battle with the government successfully allowed for claims made after January 2017 to go forward due to a revision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The measure would allow service members the ability to file a medical malpractice claim.

“This is just terrible for business” stated LTC Shepley, a surgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston. “How else are doctors supposed to get their repetitions in and get better at surgery? We have livelihoods that require we open up successful practices after we get out, and if we don’t have the experience from tinkering around on service members, I’m just afraid we won’t be able to afford those yearly vacations in the Bahamas and the mortgage on our mansions.”

Determining whether or not the NDAA gives troops the ability to seek legal recourse against the government, should they be the victim of medical malpractice, will likely be tested over the next few years. In the meantime, military doctors have said they must decide whether seeking legislation to overturn the NDAA, or simply getting better at medicine without bringing injury to service members, is the right course of action for their community.

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