Proposed Legislation to Require Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Benefits to Include Coverage for PTSD

CT General Assembly logoFollowing the Newtown school tragedy, a number of emergency response workers and teachers were unable to return to work because of the emotional repercussions of what they witnessed at the scene. In response, the Connecticut Labor & Public Employees Committee introduced Senate Bill No. 823, “An Act Concerning Severe Mental or Emotional Impairment and Workers’ Compensation Coverage”.  The legislation would amend the Connecticut workers’ compensation laws to allow for claims based on emotional trauma. The current law limits workers’ compensation claims to workers who suffer physical injury. If the physical injury also results in emotional pain and suffering, the claimant may also collect for these injuries. The amendment, if passed, will most likely restrict claims based on emotional trauma to employees who are exposed to death or maiming while at work.

The Connecticut Office of Legislative Research provides the following summary of the pending legislation:

“This bill makes an employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if:

1. the employee’s employment caused the employee to witness the death or maiming, or immediate aftermath of the death or maiming, of at least one person;

2. the death or maiming was caused by an intentional act of another person, and not a natural cause; and

3. a licensed and board certified mental health professional diagnoses the employee with a mental or emotional impairment and determines that the impairment originated from the employee witnessing the death or maiming, or its immediate aftermath.

Except for special circumstances related to police officers and firefighters, current law does not provide workers’ compensation benefits for mental or emotional impairments unless they stem from a work-related physical injury or occupational disease.

The bill also extends all workers’ compensation benefits to (1) police officers who suffer a mental or emotional impairment caused by using, or being subjected to, deadly force in the line of the duty and (2) firefighters diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by witnessing the death of another firefighter in the line of duty. Current law limits the benefits in these instances to treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.”

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is opposed to the bill largely because of the likely impact on municipal budgets. There is also concern that the changes would result in abuse of the workers’ compensation system by workers who witness trauma at work and file fraudulent emotional distress claims. The Insurance Association of Connecticut (IAC) is also opposing the legislation.

To read the full text of the bill see File No. 53 at the Connecticut General Assembly website.

Dozens of Lawsuits Allege Serious Risks Associated with Mirena IUD

Mirena birth control device Manufactured by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, the Mirena IUD was approved by the FDA in 2000 as a contraceptive and later as treatment for heavy bleeding after childbirth. The device is used by more than 2 million women in the U.S. and 15 million women worldwide. Although considered a safe form of birth control, the FDA has received thousands of reports from women claiming they have suffered serious complications from the device. Recent lawsuits allege that women who use the contraceptive are susceptible to the following risks:

  • Perforation of the uterine or cervix wall
  • Embedment in vaginal tissue
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ovarian Cysts
  • Migration out of the uterus which can result in infection or other injuries

Of the nearly 3 dozen lawsuits filed, the primary allegation is perforation of surrounding tissue.  According to the lawsuits, Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals knew or should have known about the risks and neglected to provide adequate warnings to the medical community. Plaintiffs allege that the company withheld information about the risks and made false and deceptive representations concerning the safety  of the device. Although the FDA has not yet recommended a recall of the Mirena IUD, it appears likely that the manufacturer will be required to alter the warning label to include more comprehensive information about potential risks.

Click here to access the FDA’s description of the Mirena IUD, including side affects and risks.

Contaminated Steroid Linked to Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

aspergillus fumigatus fungasAs many as 119 patients who received epidural steroid injections have developed fungal meningitis. As of October 9, 2012, 11 people have died from the outbreak. According to the Food and Drug Administration, a vial of the steroid called methylprednisolone acetate was found to be contaminated with a fungus. In several of the patients, the meningitis was caused by the fungus aspergillus. New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts is believed to be the source of the contaminated steroid. NECC has recalled three lots of the drug and is no longer in operation.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention along with the Food and Drug Administration are conducting and a multi-state investigation focusing on cases of meningitis where the patient was given an epidural spinal injection. The injections are given to help relieve back pain. Up to 75 clinics in 23 states received the recalled lots of the steroid.The potentially contaminated injections were given staring May 21, 2012.

The States that received the NECC steroid include: California, Connecticut, Florida, Giorgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia. A complete list of the Healthcare facilities which received lots of the recalled drug is available on the CDC website.

The CDC is advising patients to find out if they received a potentially contaminated medication by contacting the health care provider who performed the procedure.

“If you have received a potentially contaminated medication, seek medical attention if you have symptoms. It is important to note that infected patients have had very mild symptoms that are only slightly worse than usual. For example, many infected patients have had slight weakness, slightly worsened back pain, or even a mild headache. Patients have had symptoms generally starting from 1 to 4 weeks after their injection.”

People who received an epidural steroid injection since May 21, 2012 should seek medical attention should they have any of the symptoms listed below:
New or worsening headache
Fever
Sensitivity to light
Stiff neck
New weakness or numbness in any part of your body
Slurred speech
Increased pain, redness or swelling at your injection site”

Updates about the investigation as well as patient guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions are available at the CDC website.

Recall of Sears Kenmore Elite & LG Gas Dryers

Kenmore & LG dryersOver 20,000 LG and Kenmore Elite gas dryers have been recalled due to a defective gas valve. The dryers fail to shut off when the cycle is complete, posing a burn and fire hazard. The high temperatures on the interior and exterior surface of the dryer can lead to burns, fire and smoke inhalation. Sears and LG Electronics have received 141 complaints from consumers. 3 of the complaints reported burns to hands and arms and 50 complaints reported scorched clothing.

The dryers were sold nationwide at various department stores from November 2009 to August 2010. A complete list of the model numbers included in the recall is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Consumers who purchased LG dryers at stores other than Sears should contact LG Customer Service (866-223-5355) for a free gas valve replacement. For LG or Kenmore Elite dryers purchased from Sears, consumers should contact Sears Customer Service (888-375-9741) to schedule a free replacement valve service.