CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A Green Beret from North Carolina, with a Purple Heart and stage four terminal lung cancer, is in his toughest fight yet: trying to overturn a 1950 Supreme Court decision, known as the Feres Doctrine, that denies active duty soldiers the right to sue the government for medical malpractice.
For months, Sfc. Richard Stayskal’s lung cancer was missed by doctors at Womack Army Medical Center. When it was finally detected by a civilian doctor, Stayskal’s cancer had spread. Doctors told him he had a year to live.
“ISIS couldn’t kill him but our own health care system is,” said Stayskal’s attoreny Natalie Khawam. “How does that happen?”
After FOX 46 first reported on Stayskal’s case, several bipartisan members of Congress wanted to take action. Stayskal, who travels to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers in between radiation treatments, has been invited to testify before the House Armed Services Committee next week. He will now get the chance to tell the story he first told to FOX 46 directly to lawmakers.
“We’re elated to know that there is so much momentum and adovacy for our troops,” said Khawam. “This couldn’t come any sooner and we’re looking forward to testifying and sharing with the American people the importance of protecting our military, our troops and their families.”
If Staskal was a private citizen, he could sue his doctor for medical malpractice. Under the Feres Doctrine, he can’t, because the ruling stated the government is not liable for injuries that are incident to service.”
FOX 46 followed Stayskal to the Capitol last year when he met with lawmakers, including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who is now the chairwoman of the Armed Services Committee. At the time, she expressed sympathy, telling Stayskal “you’re just asking for justice” and promised a hearing on the Feres Doctrine would be “one of the first things” her committee would do.
Stayskal will testify on April 30 at a hearing titled “Feres Doctrine – A Policy in Need of Reform?”
A rally in Washington, D.C. in support of Stayskal calling for changes to the Feres Doctrine is scheduled for June. An online petition has nearly 100,000 signatures.