Maine Human Rights Commission Rules in Favor of HIV-Positive Patient Who Was Refused Surgery
The Maine Human Rights Commission on Monday ruled 3-1 in favor of an HIV-positive man who claimed he was unlawfully discriminated against when he was refused orthopedic surgery because of his HIV status, the Portland Press Herald reports. Portland resident Steven DesRochers filed the complaint in April, claiming that Waldo County orthopedic surgeon Dr. Paul Kamins unfairly discriminated against him in January when he declined to perform the bilateral hip replacement DesRochers needed as a result of avascular necrosis. According to DesRochers, Kamins was "interested" in performing the procedure until he learned of DesRochers' HIV-positive status. Kamins' attorney Joseph Hahn argued that DesRochers' HIV status was not the only reason Kamins refused to perform the surgery. Hahn said that Kamins had never performed a bilateral hip replacement before and was therefore "unqualified" to perform the procedure and that because Kamins is the only orthopedic surgeon in his county, he could not take on a patient from Portland, which is south of Waldo County. DesRochers' attorney Kristin Aiello of the Disability Rights Center said, "What this case is about is fear and prejudice, outright discrimination that's based on the fact that my client has HIV." The ruling in favor of DesRochers reinforces previous decisions finding that health care providers cannot deny "critical services" to HIV-positive patients on the basis of their HIV status. Although commission rulings carry no penalties, they are often used as the basis for future lawsuits or mediation. DesRochers, who is currently awaiting surgery, said he is not yet sure if he will sue Kamins (Shanahan, Portland Press Herald, 6/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.