HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

RIP Dr. Jerri Neilsen FitzGerald

The Associated Press reports on the death of Dr. Jerri Neilsen FitzGerald,

Jerri Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died. She was 57.   Her husband, Thomas FitzGerald, said she died Tuesday at their home in Southwick, Mass. Her cancer had been in remission until it returned in August 2005, he said Wednesday.  

She was the only doctor among 41 staff at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in winter 1999 when she discovered a lump in her breast. At first, she didn't tell anyone, but the burden became too much to bear. . . .    Rescue was out of the question. Because of the extreme weather conditions, the station is closed to the outside world for the winter. She had no choice but to treat the disease herself, with help from colleagues she trained to care for her and U.S.-based doctors she stayed in touch with via satellite e-mail. . . .

Nielsen FitzGerald spent the last decade speaking around the world about the cancer and how it changed her life, and also worked as roving ER doctor in hospitals all over the Northeast.   "She fought bravely, she was able to make the best of what life and circumstance gave her, and she had the most resilience I have ever seen in anyone," said her husband. "She fought hard and she fought valiantly." The couple would have celebrated their third anniversary next week. . . .

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