Sergeant Richard Stayskal is an active-duty Green Baret soldier at Fort Bragg. The 37-year-old has Stage 4 (advanced) lung cancer. He is seeking to bring a claim of medical malpractice against the military for negligent medical care. He says that if medical mistakes by military doctors would not have occurred that he would not be terminally ill.
Stayskal originally had a routine CT scan prior to his entrance to the dive school program. No problem was detected with his lungs at that time. Months later he began struggling to breathe and sought medical attention. He was examined and told that he likely had pneumonia and was released. Over time his symptoms continued to worsen.
He next asked for approval to see a civilian pulmonologist, which took a month to be approved. After undergoing another CT scan it was determined that a tumor existing in his lung. After a biopsy, it was determined to be cancerous. Stayskal and his family were outraged that the problem was not detected in his two prior visits with the military doctors.
Delay in Treatment
The family reviewed his medical records compiled by the military. They showed that doctors at Womack Army Medical Center had detected an “abnormality” that should be tested. For some reason, Stayskal was never notified of their findings. The family feels that this delay allowed the cancer to develop to its current stage. The tumor was believed to have metastasized and then spread to nearby bodily organs.
Attempt to File a Claim
The family has since hired Dr. Louis Leskosy, a radiologist. Dr. Leskosky reviewed the images of Stayskal's lungs and believes that the situation is a “disheartening case of malpractice”. The family also hired an attorney to pursue a claim of medical malpractice. Unfortunately, his case may be barred from proceeding. The Feres Doctrine is a law that was enacted in 1950 that prevents active military members from pursuing such claims against the government.
The Feres Doctrine involved the case of Feres v. The United States where a service member was severely injured after exposure to radioactive materials. The family expressed disbelief regarding how active military members are unable to seek compensation. His attorney stated that the law is in place to prevent those in combat from bringing claims for injuries. In this case, the attorney feels the Doctrine is inapplicable stating “there is no combat, there is no war at Womack Hospital”.
Despite being busy with his cancer treatment, Stayskal has gone to Washington D.C. to encourage lawmakers to reconsider the Feres Doctrine. They have a petition with over 75,000 signatures supporting their cause. They are apparently planning a “March for America” in the coming months also. The march will include current and former military members and their families who believe that the law should be changed. Stayskal currently has two daughters who are 9 and 11 years of age. On Change.org a letter is posted that directly asks legislators to reverse the law.