The Feres Doctrine and the Military: Why it needs to go

doctors, performing, operation

Every military member that has ever served, or that is currently serving, will agree on this piece of advice for other service members, if you need any kind of medical procedure or advice, try and get a referral off base.

Everyone who has served for any amount of time has seen the horrors that medical has inflicted on service members. While I served, I knew a guy that had his jaw broken by dental, twice. That same guy had back surgery done by a military doctor, they botched it, so he’ll never walk right again.

I knew another service member who got a vasectomy by military doctors, now it hurts every time he has sex because they botched that procedure too. I can’t name all the people I know that have woken up while dental has been taking their wisdom teeth out because the anesthesiologist botched the dosage amount.

Me personally, I was sent for a pre-op appointment following a dislocated finger because the MRI they sent me out for said I had some torn tendons. Only when I got to the civilian doctor, he told me that OF COURSE I had some torn tendons, I had just dislocated my finger, but I certainly didn’t need surgery! His words “anyone who has been through medical school should know this”.

The good news for all these service members dealing with incompetent doctors? There isn’t a damn thing you can do. Thanks to something called the Feres doctrine, military members are barred from opening medical malpractice suits against their military doctors.

Now I certainly didn’t need a medical malpractice suit opened for my case, but what about the case of Sgt. 1st Class Rich Stayskal? His cancer showed up on a scan in January 2017, but did anyone tell him about it? No. How about a few months later when he was passing out and coughing up blood? Nope wasn’t worth mentioning.

It wasn’t until June when he was referred to a NON-MILITARY doctor, that he was told that he had cancer. And by then it had spread. His cancer is now terminal.

How about the case of Rebekah Daniel? She died following child birth due to excessive bleeding five years ago. What caused the excessive bleeding and why couldn’t the military doctors stop it? Well they’re not quite sure and they aren’t trying to find out. They don’t care.

Now don’t get me wrong the Feres doctrine has its worth, military doctors shouldn’t be held liable for treating wounds caused on the battlefield. Those are extraordinary cases where outcomes can’t be guaranteed, and doctors can’t be second guessing themselves.

But during routine medical procedures and care, military doctors should not be allowed to botch the medical care that they provide to military personnel without consequence. There are only two types of doctors in the United States that can practice without medical malpractice insurance, military doctors and civilian doctors that work on military personnel. This needs to change, our military members deserve better.