HIV positive surgeon

Scoles v. Mercy Health Corporation of Southeastern Pennsylvania is the first case challenging practice restrictions on an HIV-positive orthopedic surgeon as discriminatory under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While the case ultimately produced a pleasing settlement for the plaintiff, surgeon Paul Scoles, the trial court’s decision reflects the intractable nature of the fear that has informed decisions affecting the rights of health care workers with HIV. In this case, Lambda represents the doctor whose surgical privileges were terminated, then reinstated on the condition that he notify patients of his HIV status prior to performing any procedures. The hospital defendants also removed Dr. Scoles from referral lists for two non-surgical clinics it operates and widely circulated information to colleagues, staff and others who made referrals to Dr. Scoles that he no longer was providing patient care. According to the defendants, this was all done in the name of patient safety. Curiously, the hospital’s first action on hearing of Dr. Scoles’ HIV infection was not to contact an infectious disease expert; rather they reached out to a lawyer and a public relations staffer. Dr. Scoles career has not recovered three years later.


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