Eleven Organizations Challenge Firing of HIV-Positive Dental Hygienist
The American Public Health Association, the American Dental Association, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America are among 11 national organizations challenging the 1997 firing of an HIV-positive dental hygienist, Reuters Health/JAMA reports. The lawsuit originated after Spencer Waddell's employer, Dr. Eugene Witkin of Valley Forge Dental Associates in Atlanta, Ga., was informed by Waddell's physician of his HIV-positive status. Waddell was then fired, although Witkin admitted that he had never received any training related to HIV and was confused about how HIV was transmitted. A lower court dismissed Waddell's initial lawsuit, saying that he posed a "significant risk" of transmitting HIV to patients. The new suit is the "first" to be brought after the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Abbott v. Bragdon (Gale, Reuters Health/JAMA, 12/8). In that case, the court found that HIV-positive people are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which "prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and other public services" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/26/98). Waddell's attorney, Stephen Scarborough of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, said, "The fact that very reputable professional organizations are concerned about science and the integrity of their positions takes away the notion that this is just a self-interested party arguing his case" (Reuters Health/JAMA, 12/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.