FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 1998

CR

WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA HOSPITAL AGREES TO NEW POLICY FOR TREATING

PATIENTS WITH HIV, UNDER AGREEMENT WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After allegedly denying surgical treatment to a patient who is HIV-positive, George Washington University Hospital agreed today to take steps to ensure people with HIV and other infectious diseases are not turned away because of their disabilities, the Justice Department announced. The agreement stems from a complaint filed with the Justice Department under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by Ron Flowers, a 32 year-old Washington resident. The complaint alleged that Flowers, who is HIV-positive, was denied surgical treatment at George Washington University Hospital in March 1996. "People with infectious diseases such as HIV must be able to enter the nation's hospitals and clinics confident that they will receive appropriate medical treatment," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "George Washington University's renewed commitment to serving all members of its community is a model for other hospitals." Under the terms of the settlement, George Washington University and the Hospital will: implement a policy prohibiting its medical staff from making treatment decisions based on a patient's infectious disease status unless medically appropriate;

provide information regarding this and other non-discrimination policies to patients through pamphlets and other materials posted throughout the hospital;

provide annual training for its staff regarding this policy and their responsibilities to treat patients with infectious diseases under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act;

sponsor a symposium for cardiothoracic surgeons across the region on cardiothoracic surgery and HIV;

pay the complainant significant compensatory damages.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and commercial facilities like hospitals and other medical care facilities. According to the complaint, Flowers was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after suffering two strokes. Tests revealed that a growth on Flowers' aortic valve was the likely cause. According to the complainant, although the medically appropriate treatment for his condition was open-heart surgery, the cardiothoracic surgeons at the Hospital refused to perform the operation because he is HIV-positive. Flowers subsequently received the surgery at another local hospital and has fully recovered. As the ADA permits, Flowers filed a private lawsuit, which is being resolved separately. "Access to medical care should be available to all people, and as advances in medicine extend the lives of people with HIV, compliance with the ADA is even more critical," added Lee. Copies of the agreement may be obtained by calling the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line. The hotline was established by Attorney General Janet Reno as part of a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the law. Last year, President Clinton participated in a radio public service announcement to highlight the hotline. The number is 800-514-0301 and 800-514-0383 (TDD). The agreement is also available on the Justice Department webpage at: [http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm]. # # #

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