Two members of the Florida delegation are leading the charge on Capitol Hill to let servicemembers sue the U.S. Department of Defense “for instances of medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties.”
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla. and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., joined other members of Congress in bringing out the “Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act” to allow military personnel to sue the Defense Department on medical malpractice.
“Currently, the Feres Doctrine, which originated in a 1950 Supreme Court case, prevents servicemembers from having their day in court when malpractice by military health care providers unconnected to combat results in severe injury or even death,” Crist’s office noted. “For nearly 70 years, servicemembers have not been able to sue military medical providers after being misdiagnosed, mistreated, or subjected to botched surgeries, even though this malpractice occurred in health care settings in which all other Americans have that right. By creating an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act to allow servicemembers to sue the military for medical malpractice, the Stayskal Act would give servicemembers the same right as the fellow citizens they serve to protect. SFC Stayskal developed terminal lung cancer after being misdiagnosed in a military health facility.”
Other supporters of the bill include U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Richard Hudson, R-NC, Jamie Raskin, D-Mary., Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.
“Current law prevents servicemembers and their families from seeking justice when hurt or killed due to medical malpractice,” said Crist on Wednesday. “This legislation reverses misguided policy for non-combat-related malpractice, like childbirth and cancer misdiagnosis. Our military and their families deserve better — eliminating the Feres Doctrine is simply the right thing to do.”
“The brave men and women of our Armed Forces are the only people denied the benefits of the United States’ waiver of sovereign immunity when they are medically malpracticed upon at military hospitals,” said Steube, an Army veteran who serves on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. “This bill will restore those rights and I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor. Our servicemembers sacrifice so much for our country and they deserve at least this much.”
“The Feres Doctrine is a travesty,” said Speier who introduced the bill chairs the U.S. House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “It denies servicemembers who put their lives on the line for this country the same access to the justice system enjoyed by servicemembers’ spouses, other federal employees, and even prisoners. Creating an exemption for medical malpractice is long overdue. I’m thrilled to have a bipartisan group of colleagues join me in addressing this injustice for our servicemembers and their families, who bear the burden of service as well.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. So far, there is no version over in the U.S. Senate.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.