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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
Attorney • 435-649-2525

Utahn Champions The Demise Of The Feres Doctrine

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The "Feres Doctrine" was created by a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision that, for the most part, precludes U.S. military service members from pursuing damages for injuries or death caused by non-combat related medical negligence. Unfortunately, this doctrine hits too close to home for one Utahn.

Col. Adele Connell, 57, of Stansbury Park, has been an active member of the military for more than 30 years. She is speaking out now because she does not want other service members to go through what she has for the last eight months. Last November, Connell was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast. The treatment plan included removal of both breasts as well as one lymph node suspected to be involved. A surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center did remove a lymph node on the cancerous left breast but although no cancer was found on the healthy right breast, the surgeon went ahead and erroneously removed 17 additional glands. The result is that Connell is afflicted with lymphedema and she has a compromised immune system.

There is a movement afoot to address what many characterize as an injustice against military service members who do not enjoy the same rights to address acts of medical negligence that the general public and even prison inmates enjoy. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is considering the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act named for a 28 year old Marine whose developing skin cancer was repeatedly misdiagnosed as a wart. Sgt. Rodriguez died last year.

If passed in its current form, the bill will be retroactive to 1997 which will potentially benefit another Utah family. Alexis Witt is the widow of Sgt. Dean Witt. In 2003, Sgt. Witt was 25 when he developed severe abdominal pains. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and he had his appendix removed in 2003. He was then left in the care of a student nurse and two hospital interns who failed to recognize signs of trouble. His family claims that when problems were identified, the medical staff used improper breathing equipment to help him breathe and that he ended up in a vegetative state. Sgt. Witt died three months later.

Basic notions of fairness dictate that the Feres Doctrine disappear into the annals of military history.

2 Comments

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  1. Ed Fremer says:
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    My son Michael Fremer was killed at Fort Polk, La on 2/13/08 because of Army Negligence at the conclusion of a training exercise. The Army can not be held accountable because of the Feres Doctrine. This law needs to be changed. Why is the Army exempt from being held accountable for Negligence? Our young men and woman are risking their lives. This is how our country treats the soldiers and the families?

    The Military uses the Feres Doctrine to cover up and protect themselves against Medical Malpractice in the Cases involving Dean Witt and Carmelo Rodriguez. It also protects the Military in cases involving Marines being exposed to Toxic chemicals on US Bases on US soil. The Military is exempt from being held accountable on all of these matters. The Feres Doctrine needs to be overturned so the Military is held accountable.

    Thanks,

  2. NeedHelp2 says:
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    Can I get in contact with the Col or his lawyer or a lawyer I have an Injury tha inccured while on duty had Major Surgery the Miltary has screwed and my injury has gotten worsed they will not do anything and I may not be able to go back to my civilian job I am in the National Gaurd and need assistance Please can someone contact me Please there is moreinfo I do not know whom to contact. I problably should remain unknown my chain of commannd and the Army have ways of makeing ones life challenging if you don’t follow the rules; on the civilian sector I am covred on duty I am afraid of re-course when on duty it is a dictatorship

    SGT Needs Help