US Military Can Now Be Charged With Medical Negligence

US Military Can Now Be Charged with Medical Negligence

On December 17, 2019, Congress passed the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, which provides troops with the right to file a claim for medical malpractice against the government in certain situations.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal’s experiences that inspired this law began in early 2017. Stayskal, a Green Beret, was sent for a CT scan before he could qualify for dive school, due to a previous chest injury he suffered on deployment to Iraq. The results of that CT scan were concerning and had him shuffled around from doctor to doctor for months. He was misdiagnosed with pneumonia despite having a mass on his lung. When he was finally sent off-base for treatment in June 2017 he learned he had Stage 3 lung cancer that had spread to his neck, spleen, liver, hip, and lymph nodes.

In 1950 the Supreme Court passed the Feres Doctrine, which prohibited troops from charging the government with medical negligence for mistreating injuries and illness during service. The new National Defense Authorization Act overturns this doctrine and sets aside $400 million for the investigation and payout of claims for cases unrelated to combat.