Carson Thomas was a 20-year-old infantryman when he went to see United States Army medics to discuss the pain in his groin on February 12, 2012. The senior medic referred him to the Evans Army Community Hospital in Colorado. He was subsequently diagnosed with a hernia. At first, Thomas was placed on light duty to give his body time to heal. But it didn’t. The pain continued.
And it wasn’t easy to endure, Thomas says: “I’ve never been stabbed, but if I had to guess, that’s what it feels like.”
Thomas visited doctors on the base no fewer than eight times from February 2012 and April 2014 to find out why the pain never went away, but doctors never did anything more than prescribe Ibuprofen. He was placed on “dead man” status, which meant he was basically as useless as a dead man to the army.
“That type of care, they just treated me like I was a dude just trying to get on profile,” he later said. “That’s how I felt the whole entire time. They just treated me like a piece of shit.”
The hospital’s general surgeon agreed with the previous diagnoses in April 2014, arguing that “From my standpoint he should not have any physical limitations due to the small occult inguinal hernia.”
On December 19, 2014, Thomas was honorably discharged.
On April 12, 2015, he found himself in the emergency room of Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina when a lymph node in his neck abruptly burst. Only two days later – after years of misdiagnoses by the army’s medical personnel – VA doctors diagnosed him with Stage 3 germ cell testicular cancer. It was quickly progressing to Stage 4.
Over the years during which he was consistently misdiagnosed with a small occult inguinal hernia, the cancer had enveloped the entire left side of his body, spreading to his kidney, liver, heart, lungs, neck, and lymph nodes. Thomas is suffering from a life-threatening disease, but based on the law he might not be able to hold anyone responsible.
He and his attorneys filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on April 23, 2019 knowing that the chances of dismissal were high. A 1950 Supreme Court decision called the Feres Doctrine helps govern how United States citizens can sue the government – and in the case of soldiers, it basically makes them property of the U.S. government, which cannot be held liable “for injuries to members of the armed forces arising from activities incident to military service.”
The only opportunity Thomas has is to prove that not only were the Army’s medical personnel negligent in their diagnoses, but that the cancer was not a result of his time in the armed forces. His attorneys have a tough job ahead of them.