Unum Must Pay Benefits to Doctor Disabled by Cognitive Deficits Caused by Cancer Treatments

We commonly work with clients who, aside from suffering from the physical impacts of cancer, are unable to re-engage in their occupation due to long lasting cognitive effects of chemotherapy and other medication treatment.  We are particularly keen on helping women who have endured the impacts of breast cancer, but experience deficits in their memory, and cognitive fatigue during and after chemotherapy.  Insurance companies regularly attempt to limit their liability under a two-year mental health limitation in the disability policies. We recently reviewed a decision against Unum Life Ins. Co. of America, brought by a anesthesiologist suffering from the aftermath of breast cancer.  Berg v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., No. 2:21-CV-11737-TGB-DRG, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49587 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 23, 2023) Dr. Berg suffered from cognitive impairment confirmed by testing that revealed her executive dysfunction and problems with sustained vigilance. Unum attempted to limit the claim to two years by alleging that Dr. Berg’s ongoing cognitive problems were based on mental health issues, rather than caused by her treatment including aromatase inhibitor therapy.  The Court rejected Unum’s position and held that Dr. Berg was disabled due to breast cancer and not, as Unum contended, from general anxiety disorder. Although Dr. Berg continued to be treated with regular therapy sessions throughout her cancer treatment, the court held that Dr. Berg was ultimately unable to continue her work “due to the affects and issues related to having cancer,” including from the cognitive side effects and the fatigue she experienced as a result of the cancer treatments and medications prescribed by her oncologist which left her unable to practice medicine.  In ruling for Dr. Berg that she remained disabled, the court reasoned, “to practice medicine, a physician must be mentally fit and without cognitive impairment. Fatigue, concentration problems, and medication side effects can all render a physician unfit to practice.”

We at Bonny G. Rafel LLC, provide legal counsel to individuals seeking to obtain (or overcome the denial of) long term disability benefits, and advocate for our clients as the Voice of the Disabled.  See our website for video presentations and information on our boutique practice and contact us to discuss your case.  www.disabilitycounsel.com.

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