Court Upholds Pump Ruling

The Massachusetts Appeals Court Friday cleared the way for a Harvard medical student to receive extra break time to pump breast milk when she takes an exam to certify her as a physician.

The decision of the three-judge appeals panel leaves intact a ruling two weeks ago, which ordered the National Board of Medical Examiners to grant Sophie C. Currier, an MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School, one hour of break time per day on top of the 45 minutes students typically have for the entire exam.

The Board of Medical Examiners appealed the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Friday afternoon.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Currier, 33, who is currently nursing a 5-month-old infant, said she would take the exam with the court-ordered break time “as soon as physically possible, probably sometime this week.”

Currier cannot graduate from the Medical School or begin her scheduled residency until she passes the eight-hour licensing exam.

Earlier in the week, the judges temporarily voided the Sept. 26 ruling in favor of Currier in order to determine whether judicial action was required.

If the Supreme Judicial Court declines to hear the case, the Board of Medical Examiners will grant Currier the break time, board spokeswoman Carol Thomson said.

By appealing the decision, the board is attempting to ensure that “the standards under which people are tested are consistent,” Thomson said.

Gary S. Katzmann, the state judge who awarded Currier the break time two weeks ago, rejected the board’s argument, citing the potential for pain or medical injury if Currier were not given the extra time. Failure to express milk every two to three hours can lead to medical complications, such as breast engorgement, fever, or infection.

In Friday’s opinion, the appeals court judges did not take into account the merits of the case, only ruling on the question of whether Katzmann had “abused his discretion” in his ruling.

The Supreme Judicial Court could again rule on the underlying merits of the case if it decides to hear the appeal, according to Thomson.

The Board of Medical Examiners previously agreed to grant Currier a second day of test time because she has dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Currier said yesterday that she hoped the legal process was coming to a close.

“I’m ready for things to be over, to move on,” Currier said. “But it’s not completely resolved yet...there’s still some suspense.”

—Staff writer Clifford M. Marks can be reached at cmarks@fas.harvard.edu.

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