A Ventura medical clinic that refused treatment to a man
infected with the AIDS virus agreed Tuesday to pay $85,000 to
settle a federal discrimination lawsuit.
Civil rights lawyers said the lawsuit, which was settled the
day it was set to go to trial in federal court in Los Angeles,
was the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit filed under the
federal Americans With Disabilities Act.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the
Western Law Center for Disability Rights, who represented the
man denied treatment, contend that the settlement delivers a
warning to doctors across the nation.
"This sends an important message that AIDS discrimination is
unlawful and won't be tolerated," said ACLU attorney Jon
Salvador Fuentes filed the discrimination suit in March, 1992,
a month after he was refused treatment at the Ventura Urgent
Care Center for a laceration from a broken glass. He received
the cut while washing dishes in his Ventura home.
Before he arrived at the clinic, Fuentes called for directions,
informed clinic staff that he was HIV-positive and was told he
could still receive care, the suit says.
But when he arrived, Dr. Thelma Reich told Fuentes that the
clinic would not treat him for his wound, the suit said.
Fuentes demanded that Reich put her refusal in writing before
he would leave. She wrote on the back of a prescription slip:
"This is to inform you that I do not treat patients with
HIV-positive in our clinic. Advised to go to County ER for
Reich, who no longer works at the clinic, admitted no
wrongdoing in settling the suit.
"This is definitely not about discrimination," said James
Castle, Reich's attorney. "She exercised her medical judgment
that she was potentially at risk from his blood."
DE CLINICS--SUITS; SETTLEMENTS; ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY