Active Duty Military Unable to File Malpractice Claims After Care at Military Hospitals and Clinics Due to Feres Doctrine | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

There are some laws that just don’t make sense. The Feres Doctrine is one of them. This doctrine is a federal law under which active-duty military personnel are prohibited from suing the U.S. government for injuries related to military service “even if gross negligence was the cause,” according to Medical News Today. Even more egregious is the fact that the policy extends to injuries which occurred while the service member was off duty and/or was not caused by military personnel.


My colleague Rick Shapiro wrote about the archaic nature of the Feres Doctrine and how unjust this policy is in many circumstances. For example, Air Force Staff Sgt. Dean Witt’s had appendicitis but was misdiagnosed. He was sent home with antibiotics and collapsed. He was rushed into surgery and came out brain-dead. He and his family have no legal recourse for the misdiagnosis and subsequent harm stemming from the misdiagnosis.

Here’s a video illustrating the impact of the Feres Doctrine on military members and their families…

 “I consider the Feres Doctrine to be one of the most grotesque rules created in the history of this republic,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “It has done untold damage to thousands of military personnel and their families.”

This issue is extremely important in Virginia (VA), especially the Hampton Roads area where there is a large military presence. Under the Feres doctrine, the spouse and family members of our courageous military men and women can sue under the Federal Torts Claim Act for medical malpractice, but the active military member has no recourse. Our brave service men and women deserve the same basic legal protections we have.