Oklahoma Surgeons Fined for Refusing HIV-Positive Man Treatment
Under an agreement with the Justice Department, a group of Oklahoma neurosurgeons must pay $50,000 for refusing to operate on an HIV-positive man, AP/Newsday reports. Dr. Karl Detwiler of Neurological Surgery Inc. was charged with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act when he refused to perform back surgery on John McCarthy, who is HIV-positive. Detwiler refused to provide medical care after learning of McCarthy's HIV status during a November 1997 exam, according to the suit. Timothy Best, Detwiler's attorney, said that the doctor had a policy of only operating on HIV-positive patients in "life-threatening" emergencies and did not deem McCarthy's case as such, offering other kinds of therapy instead of surgery. Best also argued that the policy was not in violation of the ADA because in 1997, when the incident occurred, the law had "not yet been interpreted to apply to HIV patients." A federal judge approved the agreement, which also prohibits the surgeons from refusing to treat patients based on their HIV status. Detwiler is required to receive training on infection control and treatment of people with HIV. Best maintained that the settlement was reached only "to end a lengthy legal battle" (AP/Newsday, 12/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.