Will This Spur End to Feres Doctrine?

The commander of the San Antonio-based Air Force Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance Agency, Maj. Gen. Brad Heithold, visited last week with 20-year-old A1C Colton Read and his family at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where Read, who is an analyst with the AFISRA’s 9th Intelligence Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif., was still in intensive care following a botched routine surgery intended to remove his gall bladder but which led to the amputation of most of both legs in an effort to save his life. Accounts of the operation conducted at the David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB, Calif., have made regional and national news for days. Reportedly there are at least four investigations ongoing, both by the Air Force and by external agencies. During a press briefing at Travis, Heithold would not discuss the investigations and told reporters that he could not “commit to you that Colton will be” in the Air Force. This incident has heightened awareness again over the so-called nearly 60-year-old Feres Doctrine that prohibits military members from taking legal action against the government in such cases. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) in March had introduced legislation (HR 1478) that would enable a military member or their family to lodge a claim “arising out of a negligent or wrongful act or omission” by a military medical facility practitioner. (Sacramento Bee report; KTXL TV 40 report; Fort Worth Star-Telegram report)