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New York City Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Blog > Medical Malpractice > U.S. Servicemen and Women Fight for Right to Hold Negligent Doctors Liable for Malpractice, Upending Feres Doctrine, Recent Laws

U.S. Servicemen and Women Fight for Right to Hold Negligent Doctors Liable for Malpractice, Upending Feres Doctrine, Recent Laws


It is very likely that most New York City residents and other U.S. citizens across the country are not aware of an old and perplexing law that prevents our brave military members from asserting their rights against negligent doctors. Indeed, strange but true, the Feres Doctrine prevents United States servicemen and servicewomen from asserting medical malpractice claims against the doctors that treat them when they are on active duty. Under the Feres Doctrine, “The United States is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to members of the armed forces sustained while on active duty and not on furlough and resulting from the negligence of others in the armed forces.” However, to injured service member Dez Del Barba who received negligent medical treatment at the hands of his military doctor, “The Feres Doctrine is a 73-year-old law that protects the Department of Defense from servicemembers suing them for medical malpractice.”

An Servicemember Who Fell Victim to His Doctor’s Medical Malpractice Speaks Out

Servicemember Dez Del Barba spoke to local San Antonio news channel KSAT12 about the injustices that he faces as a result of the Feres Doctrine. In 2019, servicemember Del Barba contracted strep throat while he was doing basic combat training as part of Officer Candidate School at Fort Moore, formerly known as Fort Benning. Servicemember Del Barba’s doctors tested him for strep, but a rapid test came back negative. His doctors took a second test, which revealed a positive result, but Servicemember Del Barba’s doctors never informed him that he was positive for the illness. Unfortunately, as a result of not getting adequate treatment, Servicemember Del Barba’s case of strep turned into a flesh-eating disease. Servicemember Del Barba went into a coma and ultimately had to undergo 42 surgeries and a legal amputation to survive the terrible superinfection. Servicemember Del Barba said of his terrible ordeal, “Simple penicillin shot would have avoided it at all [sic]. When I tell a story to, like a civilian doctor or even my VA doctors, like, they can’t believe it. They can’t believe the system failed a service member this badly.” When asked by a KSAT reporter if he would have brought a medical malpractice lawsuit if he had not been barred by the Feres Doctrine, Servicemember Del Barba said, “I would, yes.”

A Bill to Give U.S. Servicemembers Back Their Rights to Justice for Medical Malpractice

In 2019, the SFC. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act was introduced in Congress and was later included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation provided for a $400 million dollar payout by the Department of Defense to those who submitted medical malpractice claims. However, one issue with the law is that the Department of Defense also is the agency appointed to investigate the claims. Accordingly, some believe that the system is set up so that many servicemembers’ medical malpractice claims are denied. As a result of the injustices that American servicemen and servicewomen face when it comes to medical malpractice, Representative Joaquin Castro, of Texas’ 20th Congressional District introduced H.R. 4334, calling for a third-party investigator to investigate the claims of medical malpractice, instead of the Department of Defense. Rep. Castro says of the brave American military members who have faced the injustices for so long, “They should not have any less rights than civilians would have if they suffered through medical malpractice. And yet, right now, that’s the case.”

If you were injured as a result of your doctor’s medical malpractice in New York City, contact the experienced New York City medical malpractice lawyers at the law firm of Michael Gunzburg, P.C. There is a limited time to file a claim, so do not hesitate to call. Call the law offices of Michael Gunzburg, P.C. and speak to an experienced attorney about your rights and options today.


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