On Thursday, July 9, Airman Colton Read checked into the Travis Air Force Base’s David Grant Medical Center in Fairfield, Calif., for what he was told would be a routine operation on his gallbladder. But after hours of surgery, Airman Read awoke in the UC Davis Medical Center to find that both of his legs had been amputated.
About an hour into the procedure, a relatively inexperienced doctor accidently nicked his aorta, leading to massive blood loss. For nine hours, the staff at the base’s medical center scrambled to repair the damage done to Airman Read. Finally, they acknowledged that his injuries required specialized care and transferred him to UC Davis Medical Center.
Airman Read’s family says that the doctors on the base admitted that they had made a mistake, but did not explain why it took them nine hours to transfer him to a superior hospital. Terry DeBrow, Read’s grandmother told the Dallas Morning News that had he gotten to UC Davis Medial Center earlier, “He might have had some therapy to deal with, but he would have his legs.”
Unfortunately for Airman Read and his family, the law does not allow him to file a medical negligence claim for his treatment on the base. A 1950 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Feres stated that the government could not be sued for injuries sustained by active-duty servicemen and women. This decision also barred soldiers from filing suit for injuries not related to combat, such as Airman Read’s.
Currently there is legislation under consideration by Congress that would restore the rights of the men and women of our military to hold negligent care providers accountable. The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act (S. 1347 / H.R. 1478), sponsored by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), would ensure that the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces have the ability to receive justice when they are injured by the negligence of others.