Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal Discusses Pioneering Military Medical Malpractice Law for Active-Duty Members

A Solider with Cancer Gets His Day in Court

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, a 38-year-old Green Beret was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer by a civilian pulmonologist after doctors at Fort Bragg base hospital missed chances to diagnose the cancer before it had spread. According to NPR, Stayskal said that he got angry when an administrator at the base hospital dismissed his complaints of the alleged medical negligence. Stayskal said, “Cause it was like nobody cared about me – and I felt like I was not better than everybody else but, I mean, I was a Green Beret. You know, I was trained and had all this money put into me. And I figured, if nobody cared about me, who was caring about everybody else?”

Stayskal then reached out to lawyers, “I think my wife told about a dozen or so lawyers. And the same thing – they all said no; said too bad, sorry – nothing you can do.” But Stayskal refused to give up.

This impassioned response to the Feres Doctrine, which has kept service members from being treated fairly when they’re harmed by medical negligence, is what led Stayskal to find Natalie Khawam, a lawyer who worked alongside Stayskal and his wife to lobby more than 100 lawmakers in Congress. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, introduced a bill for Stayskal and although it didn’t pass, a compromise measure was added to the Defense Authorization Act to create an administrative process to hear and settle military medical malpractice claims. 

A Victory for Active-Duty Members

Now, active-duty members have the right to bring administrative claims for medical negligence occurring at a military facility. Andrew Popper, a law professor at American University, also weighed in on the NPR interview, saying that while the new claims process is far from perfect and that such cases would be better dealt with in court, it’s a good first step.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have a military medical malpractice lawsuit or administrative claim, contact our attorneys for a free, no-obligation consultation.