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MGH nurse who says she got side effects from Covid-19 shots sues because she was fired for refusing a booster shot

Florrie McCarthy, who says she worked 36 years as a registered nurse at Mass. General, charges the hospital fired her after rejecting her request for a medical exemption for a Covid-19 booster despite a letter from the hospital's own neurology department that it "could not rule" out her earlier Covid-19 shots for "neurological symptoms" she experienced after getting the first two vaccine shots.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, McCarthy says this violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and another federal law barring discrimination based on "genetic information." She is seeking recompense in the form of damages.

According to her lawsuit, McCarthy said she willingly got the first two required shots - with the Moderna vaccine - in January and February, 2021.

She says that about an hour after the first shot, "she experienced numbness on the right side of her face and tingling around the nose and lips," but that the symptoms went away after a few hours. Then:

On February 8, 2021, Plaintiff received the second dose of the Moderna product. Approximately one hour after the injection she began to experience tingling and numbness on the right side of her face, including her mouth, lips, and nose. At about 4:00pm that day, she perceived a metallic taste in her mouth; that symptom resolved but left Plaintiff with diminished taste sensations. In addition to the metallic taste, she began to experience numbness on the right side of her tongue, which has not resolved and continues to this day.

The cause of the symptoms was not COVID-19. Plaintiff tested negative for COVID-19 both before and after her injections. Plaintiff’s ongoing condition is a result of having been injected with the Moderna products. Plaintiff’s physicians have identified no other causes.

The complaint states that on June 24, 2021, MGH informed workers they would have to get booster shots, that while medical exemptions might be granted, failure to get one without an exemption would be a firing offense.

On June 2, 2022, Plaintiff submitted to Defendant a request for a medical exemption from Defendant's policy bearing the signature of Barbara J. Woo, MD, Plaintiff's healthcare provider. Dr. Woo described Plaintiff's post-injection symptoms, stated than "an alternate cause has not been found," and concluded, "Because of the uncertainty that additional covid vaccines could [exacerbate] her current state which could be detrimental to [Plaintiff's] physical and emotional well being, we ask that an exemption be granted."

Plaintiff also provided a letter from Defendant's Department of Neurology, where Plaintiff had been examined. The letter stated "Florrie McCarthy is followed by Dr. Finkelstein MGH Neurologist. Per Dr. Finkelstein we cannot rule out that the COVID 19 vaccine has contributed to some of the patient[']s neurological symptoms.

The hospital rejected her request the next month, saying it "does not demonstrate a sufficient medical reason or contraindication to support an exemption" and then fired her, the complaint alleges.

The complaint, written by attorney Peter Vickery of Amherst, one of a small group of Massachusetts lawyers specializing in Covid-19 cases, states:

Plaintiff did not wish to be injected with a product advertised as a "COVID-19 booster" because of the risk to her health. Plaintiff had suffered harm as a result of the Moderna products and had a well-founded fear that being injected with a "booster" would cause further harm, including Bell's Palsy (facial paralysis). Peer-reviewed medical literature has demonstrated an association between the products and the onset of Bell's Palsy, e.g. Nicola Cirillo and Richard Doan, "The association between COVID-19 vaccination and Bell's palsy," The Lancet, August 16, 2021. Plaintiff did not, and does not, wish to succumb to Bell's Palsy or to suffer other debilitating adverse reactions.

Ed. note: The cited article actually only found an increase in Bell's palsy cases among patients receiving a Chinese vaccine not available in the US, one made with a completely different technique than the mRNA vaccines used here, that, if anything, the evidence suggested people who refuse mRNA shots are more likely to develop Bell's palsy than people who get them and concluded that "the benefit of getting vaccinated outweighs any possible risk."

McCarthy's complaint argues that MGH knew the boosters would not really prevent McCarthy from contracting and spreading Covid-19. In any case, given that she had suffered side effects from the two initial shots, the hospital should have considered her "disabled" under the Americans with Disabilities Act and that it "could have accommodated Defendant’s request without undue hardship."

Defendant erroneously perceived Plaintiff as being more susceptible to catching COVID-19 than employees who had received the products. In this way, Defendant regarded Plaintiff as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of a person. Accordingly, in addition to being a "handicapped person" on the basis of her adverse reaction and well-founded fear of a similar (or worse) reaction to the product advertised as a "COVID-19 booster," Plaintiff is a "handicapped person" on the basis of Defendant erroneously regarding her as more susceptible to catching COVID-19.

By terminating Plaintiff's employment for her choosing not to be injected with a medically unnecessary product that had previously caused her to suffer harm, Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of handicap.

McCarthy's complaint added that the booster requirement also violated her rights under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 because a booster shot is really a "genetic test" because it "constitutes a test of human DNA, RNA, mitochondrial DNA, chromosomes, or proteins for the purpose of identifying the presence or absence of inherited or acquired characteristics in genetic material."

PDF icon Complete complaint253.74 KB


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I was with her up until the last paragraph, despite her attorney's apparent tendencies towards hyperbole. This is an affliction that a fair number of lawyers seem to have so it can be over looked. She did seem to have negative reaction, her healthcare providers agreed to the point of being willing to put their findings in writing. I don't thing she should have been fired (and I'm VERY pro-vaccine!)

The last bit is so far over the top ridiculous however makes me question the rest of the claim....

Voting closed 1

She did get the first two, had documented and repeated issues with them, called for backup, and yet she was still fired?

This sounds more like a case of "respect mah authority" management lacking broader medical understanding than good sense. This isn't a case of antivaccine hysteria.
Having had the first two and not the boosters isn't optimal, but she could have been assigned to telemedicine or other low risk duty given that she has had those. She should at the very least get her pension or it smells strongly of age discrimination.

Voting closed 2

Just out of curiosity, what’s the batting average for these small group of lawyers?

Voting closed 1