A dying soldier can't sue the government for medical malpractice, but an inmate can

WASHINGTON (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Fighting back tears, Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal told lawmakers troops fighting for our country are stripped of their rights when medical care goes wrong.

"The hardest thing I have to do is explain to my children," he said. "This doesn't make sense and I have no good answer to give them."

Doctors at Womack Army Medical Center misdiagnosed his lung cancer as pneumonia. As a result, the cancer spread and is now stage four terminal. Stayskal's family wanted to sue for malpractice, but because of a 1950 Supreme Court decision called, 'The Feres Doctrine,' they can't. The ruling prevents active duty military from suing the government.

Opponents of the Feres Doctrine pointed out that even prisoners have the rights to sue when a doctor makes a mistake while those in uniform can't.

"The doctrine has been utilized to shield negligent medical care."

The hearing on Capitol Hill aimed at changing that. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has filed a new bill, named for Stayskal, that would give active duty soldiers the right to sue; a right they would have if they were a civilian or retired.

"I'm very confident that we're going to move this bill swiftly," Speier told FOX 46. "I believe we'll be successful."


Stayskal and his attorney both credit FOX 46 for getting results.

"This is exactly what we wished for and here we are today because of you," Stayskal told FOX 46's Matt Grant. "It's honorable congress is listening and hearing our voices and that they're willing to make changes."

The one thing that can't be changed is the time Stayskal has left. He says this fight isn't about money, but about fairness.

"I can't put a number of my life. There isn't an amount. I think my kids woul pay you money to get my life back," Stayskal told lawmakers.