A woman has lost parts of her lawsuit against the Lincoln Regional Center, in which she alleged the state psychiatric hospital delayed her physician-ordered mammogram for more than a year, then denied many radiation treatments after she ultimately was diagnosed with breast cancer.
But Ruth Cecetka’s case still can go forward on claims for money damages against the regional center and staff members.
The 51-year-old Lincoln woman was a court-ordered patient with diagnoses of borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. She sued in 2016, accusing the regional center and individual staff members of violating her rights under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act by depriving her of appropriate medical care.
Attorneys for the state argued that her claims in her lawsuit seeking injunctive and declaratory judgment relief became moot when she was discharged on Jan. 23.
In an order Monday, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard agreed.
Cecetka's complaint had asked the court to declare the staff's conduct was unlawful and for an injunction providing her health care and awarding her punitive and money damages.
But a court declaration would have no practical effect now, and Cecetka no longer needs the injunctive relief she had sought because she isn't there, the judge found.
On Thursday, Cecetka’s attorney, Kathleen Neary, said they intend to fully prosecute her remaining claims "as the defendants’ failure to provide proper medical treatment and care to Ms. Cecetka was an abomination."
She said people with mental illnesses who are held in the care and custody of the regional center cannot be denied proper medical care.
“We trust the jury to render full justice to Ms. Cecetka after hearing the egregious facts of her case,” Neary said.
They are alleging that regional center staff failed to properly care for Cecetka's health after she was committed there on Jan. 31, 2013, after being found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted second-degree assault on an officer, operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest and violating a protection order.
Cecetka began asking for a mammogram about Oct. 1, 2013. And, because of a family history of breast cancer, her doctors repeatedly ordered annual mammograms to screen for it, the lawsuit said.
But she didn't get one until May 21, 2015, nearly 2½ years after being sent to the regional center. The mammogram was "highly suggestive for malignancy.”
A biopsy that followed confirmed Cecetka had breast cancer.
She got a partial mastectomy, but alleged that regional center staff denied her many of the radiation treatments her doctors ordered.
Later that year, she developed an infection in her breast and ultimately MRSA.