Wisconsin Man Files Lawsuit Claiming Doctor Refused To Perform Surgery Because of His HIV-Positive Status
A 54-year-old man from Waupaca, Wis., on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that an orthopedist refused to perform a scheduled back surgery on him after learning he is HIV-positive, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Nunnally, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/5). The suit -- which was filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee on behalf of patient Stephen Spera -- claims that Dr. James Cain violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act when he told Spera by telephone that he was canceling spinal fusion surgery on Spera's back because a preoperative blood test revealed Spera is HIV-positive, the AP/Duluth News Tribune reports. The suit also says that Cain did not offer HIV counseling required under Wisconsin law when informing Spera of his HIV status (AP/Duluth New Tribune, 10/5). In the suit, Spera asks that Cain, who practices at Orthopedic Associates of Milwaukee, be barred from denying treatment to HIV-positive patients. The suit also seeks unspecified punitive damages. Cain's secretary at Orthopedic Associates said on Tuesday that Cain had not been served with a copy of the suit and had no comment, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Spera received treatment from Cain for back problems from 2000 to 2002, including regular injections for six months in 2002 before Cain recommended surgery, according to the suit, the Journal Sentinel reports. According to the suit, Cain refused to reschedule the surgery after canceling the operation, even after a nurse at Froedtert and Medical College called him to say Spera was cleared for surgery. Another doctor performed spinal fusion surgery on Spera in March 2003 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/5). Spera's attorneys said he filed a complaint with HHS' Office for Civil Rights in 2003, and Cain since has agreed to adopt a nondiscrimination policy. Spera also filed a complaint with Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development claiming that Cain assumed he was gay and that Cain does not require preoperative blood tests for all his patients, according to Spera's attorneys (AP/Duluth New Tribune, 10/5).