Critics vs. Supporters

Long-standing arguments between supporters and critics of the Feres doctrine can be read from the HEARING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, UNITED STATES SENATE, OCTOBER 8, 2002 transcript at:



Supporters () vs. Critics () of the Feres Doctrine


    Suing the Government for medical malpractice would erode military discipline.

     Issues of medical malpractice have nothing to do with military discipline or any notions of command or unit cohesion. In fact, it is inherently dangerous to abide by ranks in a medical environment.

     Civilian courts should not get involved in military matters.

      Medical care is not exclusive to the military. Military medical malpractice is the same as civilian medical malpractice.

    ◊ The compensation system that the military has in place for injuries or death of those in the Armed Forces serves as a generous remedy to the servicemember and/or his survivors.

     Servicemembers understand that injuries and/or death are possibilities during military training and service. Servicemembers do not expect to die from pain management therapy prescribed by their doctor after an elective surgery. In addition, some members of the family are not eligible for military survivor benefits.

    ◊ Allowing soldiers to sue their Government for tort damages implies that the military has failed its own.

     That is exactly what the military has done when it so recklessly ends a servicemember's life. If there are no disciplinary actions or penalties for life-threatening medical care and substandard conditions, the military medical system is not motivated to improve its deficiencies.

    The military has many tools at their disposal to assure accountability.

     In MSG Kinamon's case, the doctor was promoted two months after the death, received board certification shortly thereafter, is impervious to state medical board disciplinary actions, and is still employed at Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

    ◊ The current system does in fact allow for case-by-case determinations. The FTCA and the Feres doctrine empower federal District Court's to focus on individual cases and decide whether relief is available through the "incident to service" test.

     After speaking with 13 attorneys, one of which was Mr. Eugene R. Fidell who was interviewed by CBS for the Carmelo Rodriguez story, none would represent MSG Kinamon's case because of the unsuccessful precedents. In previous cases, District Courts upheld the Feres doctrine simply because they did not know how they should define "incident to service."  It should be clear in MSG Kinamon's case that his death was not incident to service but a result of reckless medical care.  

    Ultimately it is the taxpayers who suffer financially for successful suits against the government.

    ♦ Taxpayers already pay for the costs associated with medical malpractice suits by criminals and illegal immigrants via their local, state and sometimes federal taxes. If taxpayers want to object to paying for medical malpractice suits, they should protest against the suits made by criminals and illegal immigrants, NOT the suits resulting from substandard medical care for the men and women fighting for our country.


It is vital that Congress demonstrates to the servicemembers that their sacrifices are not in vain, and that they are entitled to the basic rights of all law-abiding citizens of the United States, as well as the rights given to criminals and illegal immigrants. Military personnel need to know they are being treated at least fairly, not discriminated against, because of their service to our country.

Justice delayed, is justice denied.
William Gladstone