This announcement just came across my email: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the termination of Medicaid funding to a California surgeon who intentionally discriminated against an HIV-positive patient by refusing to perform much-needed back surgery.”
The announcement went on to conclude that the surgeon had violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This act prohibits disability discrimination by healthcare providers who receive federal funds.
I will point out (though I am not an attorney), it is my understanding that medical malpractice insurance does not cover violations of federal civil rights laws.
Tip: Healthcare organizations and providers should educate themselves and their staff on issues of discrimination, specifically what it is; who it involves; how to recognize it; how to prevent it; and how to report it. As those advocating to promote diversity and inclusion, cultural competence, and patient- and family-centered care are very aware, cases such as this can often be prevented with appropriate training and education. While I cannot comment on the specifics of this case, I do hope it serves as a wake-up call to healthcare that discrimination oversight exists and that no one is immune from it. For my colleagues and fellow advocates, we should view this as a sign that the journey toward inclusiveness and non-discrimination continues; our work as important as ever.