House Defense Bill Could Allow Military Members to Sue DOD for Medical Malpractice

French army surgeons practices an elbow operation at the French military medical and surgical hospital (Hopital Medico-Chirurgical) at the Kabul International airport, in Kabul, on August 4, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/GettyImages)
ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty

An annual defense bill that authorizes Pentagon spending and activities could allow members of the military to sue the Pentagon for medical malpractice if it passes the House.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress could pass as early as today, has provisions that would create a medical malpractice exemption to the Feres Doctrine, which prevents service members from suing the government for negligence.

The provisions are based on the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, which would allow active duty victims of malpractice at large Department of Defense facilities to sue the DOD.

Stayskal is an Army Green Beret who was reportedly misdiagnosed with pneumonia instead of cancer by military medical providers and as a result, now suffers from terminal Stage IV lung cancer with one more year to live.

The act was sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee chairman, and has 13 bipartisan co-sponsors. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) has sponsored similar legislation in the Senate.

Although there are no comparable provisions in the Senate’s version of the defense bill, it will be adjudicated with the House’s and could make it into the final bill.

The Supreme Court in 1950 ruled that the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows citizens to sue the government for wrongdoing by federal agencies and employees, does not apply to most members of the military resulting from negligence from other military personnel.

The ruling became known as the Feres Doctrine. The amendment would create an exemption to that ruling.

Natalie Khawam, an attorney for Stayskal and dozens of other military families who have suffered under the Feres Doctrine, urged support for the amendment.

“Now that Congress is going to conference on the respective NDAA bills, we hope that our Senators will support the Stayskal amendment in conference, as doing so will correct the injustices that our men and women in the military have suffered due to the antiquated Feres Doctrine,” she said in a statement to Breitbart News.

“Our amendment is a narrow exception to the Feres Doctrine but critical in support of our Troops and their families,” she said.

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