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MA: OR Nurse Claims Comp. for MCS: Comp. Denied Due to `Medical Uncertainty'.

CASE FACTS: In 1983 Theresa Canavan began full-time work as a registered nurse at Brigham and Women's Hospital (Hospital) where she worked until June, 1990. At that time, she began working as an OR nurse at the Hospital. As an operating room nurse, she was responsible for the care of patients during surgery, including preparing a room for surgery, caring for surgical instruments, and assisting surgeons. While in the operating room, she was subjected to various chemicals including ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, and diesel fuel. On August 6, 1993, at the conclusion of a 10-hour day, she experienced a severe headache, nasal congestion, and dizziness. She was out of work until August 9, 1993. After returning to work, she still had symptoms, including a fever, a headache, and swelling of her nose and right cheek. After arriving at the Hospital for work, she was referred to Dr. Arthur Laurentano who confirmed her symptoms and prescribed a course of antibiotics. At that time, she was diagnosed as having chronic sinusitis and was determined to be disabled. The Hospital, which was self-insured for workers' compensation, recognized her medical condition and paid her workers' compensation benefits. Dr. Laurentano, whose antibiotic treatment had proved only marginally effective referred her to Dr. Thomas LaCava, who diagnosed her as having multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). The Hospital challenged Nurse Canavan's eligibility for workers' compensation benefits. After a hearing before the Industrial Accident Board (Board), the Board affirmed a decision of an administrative judge finding the employee eligible for workers' compensation and reasonable and necessary medical treatment. The Hospital appealed. The Appeals Court affirmed the award of benefits to Nurse Canavan. The Hospital appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Supreme Court of Massachusetts reversed the decision of the Board, thus denying workers' compensation benefits to Nurse Canavan. The court noted that in a separate law suit, the nurse (and others) sued the Hospital seeking common-law tort damages, because of her affliction with MCS. The court noted that the Hospital challenged the reliability of Dr. LaCava's opinion that the employee suffered from MCS, and that the MCS was caused by the chemicals present at the Hospital. The court noted that the Board admitted both of Dr. LaCava's opinions into evidence. The court concluded that the testimony was improperly admitted noting that Dr. LaCava admitted in cross-examination that there "is medical uncertainty as to the cause of MCS." In re Canavan 733 N.E.2d 1042 - MA (2000)

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for nearly 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Providence, R.I., firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and Marquis Who's Who in American Law.
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Article Details
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Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Nursing Law's Regan Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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