In the most recent challenge to the Feres Doctrine, a former airman who lost his legs because of a botched gallbladder surgery is suing the U.S. government, the Air Force, and the David Grant Medical Center for medical malpractice.
The Feres Doctrine, based on a 1950 case, Feres v. United States, effectively bars members of the military from collecting damages from the U.S. government for personal injuries arising from the performance of their duties.
This has been expanded to cover malpractice injuries that arise during service in the military. Basically, the Feres Doctrine is an extension of the common law concept of sovereign immunity. Numerous challenges have been made to the Feres case over the years, yet the Supreme Court has refused to overrule it thus far.
The most recent challenge involves Airman Colton Read who went for laparoscopic surgery to have his gallbladder removed prior to being deployed overseas. During the surgery, one of the physicians lacerated his aorta, setting off a series of events that resulted in action being delayed until Read was transferred to a civilian hospital nine hours later.
At that time, it was determined that his legs had been without blood flow for hours and had to be amputated. The lawsuit is asking for at least $34.3 million in damages to Read for pain, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment, mental anguish, and disfigurement. The suit also seeks $20.5 million for Read’s wife for loss of consortium.