Sgt. First Class Richard Stayskal has been fighting the battle to overturn the Feres doctrine for years ever since he was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2017. The 1950 Supreme Court ruling prevents those who were injured by military services unrelated to combat and training from suing the federal government.
“They don’t have a legal right or any legal recourse when it comes to malpractice,” stated Natalie Khawam, attorney for the Whistleblower Law Firm.
This comes after Stayskal said army medics overlooked a tumor growing in his lung and misdiagnosed his condition as a simple case of pneumonia. When he was finally allowed to visit a civilian physician months later, however, the serviceman was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer.
“The hardest thing I have to do is explain to my children when they ask me — this doesn’t make sense how is this happening? — and I have no good answer to give them,” he explained.
The U.S. Army sergeant continues to battle the disease, but his condition is now considered terminal.
Stayskal can’t hold the military doctors accountable in court because of the Feres doctrine. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in his name to help make an exception in the law for cases of medical malpractice similar to his. The bill was included in the final National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be signed into law as soon as next month.
In the meantime, Stayskal is making the most of his situation by spending as much time as he can with his family. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his daughters.