Green Beret Challenges Feres Doctrine

Natalie Khawam Representing Sgt. Richard Stayskal

Time is of the essence when one is diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Healthcare providers and family quickly rally around the best plan of care for a patient. But what if your window of vital time was missed because doctors misdiagnosed an illness? Unfortunately, this was the reality for Sgt. Richard Stayskal. He is battling stage four cancer, but his future could have looked a lot different if doctors had found his tumor six months earlier. While he is fighting for life, he is also struggling to change regulations in the military that prevent active-duty members for suing for medical malpractice.

The Feres Doctrine prevents active military members from suing formal practice. The doctrine was enforced in 1950 by the Supreme Court. Doctors who were working with Stayskal did not do their job properly when they failed to find the cancerous tumor six months before another doctor did (a civilian doctor found the tumor in his body). As previously stated, with aggressive disease, time is of utmost importance. The window of time that passed allowed the tumor to double in size. And now, Stayskal is taking legal recourse because of his limited options. With the Feres Doctrine in place and Stayskal knowing his life will end sooner than later, he is trying to make a change for future active military members who have a similar experience.

Stayskal is now suing the U.S. government. Whistleblower attorney Natalie Khawam represents him at the Whistleblower Law Firm. The law firm is currently pursuing a $10 million lawsuit against the government for medical malpractice. Because of the Feres Doctrine, Stayskal will leave behind a family with little to no support for them. His life and their lives could have looked much different if the cancer was caught and aggressively addressed six months earlier. It’s unjust and a disservice to service members that poor quality health care is costing Stayskal his life. Service members should not have to worry about this on top of risking their lives to protect our country.

Stayskal was a Green Beret and awarded a Purple Heart after serving in Iraq. He is from North Carolina and is married with two small children. Hopefully, Stayskal’s fight will have a positive impact on future active military members who go through a similar experience. Doctors say Stayskal has at least a year left to live. This is a tragic event for the Stayskal family to go through.While Doctors are human and will make mistakes, there should be recourse left for patients, especially those serving our country. While some errors in healthcare are minor, some are live altering if they are missed. In Stayskal’s case, his life will be cut short, and he will leave behind a family. The ‘what if’s’ that will likely haunt this family for the rest of their lives are unimaginable and unfair. It is unjust that they are not able to take legal action.

The Veterans Affairs Administration has been in the news due to several national scandals. Between hospital wait times that were misreported, poor patient care, and those working to fix the issues being blackmailed and cornered into submission, the VA has a questionable history that needs systematic change. Stayskal’s case is just another example of how the government is failing its employees. Thankfully, some legal experts value the sacrifice the veterans in this country have made, and the Whistleblower Law Firm is ready to help defend Stayskal, and hopefully will be able to support future military members and families who run into this kind of opposition in their time of need. Stayskal is currently 36-years-old and could have had along life ahead of him. It’s a shame that the government is not taking this case more seriously. The Department of Defense has not commented on the case or been vocal about their position. It seems that silence can say a lot—perhaps they are unwilling to engage or unwilling to consider altering the doctrine.Attorney Natalie Khawam is focusing her efforts on arguing the point of medical malpractice.

Time was of the essence for Stayskal when he began experiencing medical problems. Now, time is of the essence for him to make a difference with the time he has left. Khawam and her team will fight hard for Stayskal and veterans like him who are seeking justice and a better future for soldiers. The sacrifice that veterans and active duty members give to protect their country is insurmountable. The least we could give them in return is proper and dignified healthcare.

Natalie Khawam believes that it’s her duty, and the duty of others, to give back to the soldiers who protect this country. She has encapsulated that ideal in the cases she represents, the team she works with, the organizations she gives her time to, and the aspects of law she both represents and advocates for with her colleagues.

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