CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

NEW ORLEANS DENTIST TO PAY $120,000 FOR REFUSING TO TREAT PATIENTS WITH HIV UNDER SETTLEMENT WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A New Orleans dentist will pay $120,000 in damages for refusing to treat two HIV-positive patients under a settlement reached today with the Justice Department. Today's agreement follows a decision last March by the U.S. District Court in New Orleans finding Dr. Drew Morvant in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In its decision, the court found that Morvant had discriminated against persons with HIV/AIDS by refusing to treat them or referring them to other dentists on the basis of their HIV-positive status. The Justice Department sued the dentist in October 1993, alleging that Morvant and his dental corporation unfairly denied routine dental services to Russell Hodgkinson and Ismael Pena after informing them the office did not treat HIV-positive patients. Following the March 23, 1995 decision, the district court scheduled a hearing to determine appropriate damages. In light of today's settlement, the hearing is no longer necessary. "Both the law and medical experts agree there is no justification for dentists or other health care providers to refuse to treat people with HIV or AIDS," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "This settlement, together with the court's ruling, demonstrates that such discriminatory conduct will not be tolerated." Under the agreement approved by the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Morvant will: ​ pay $60,000 in compensatory damages to Russell Hodgkinson; ​ ​ pay $60,000 to the family of Ismael Pena, who died from AIDS in 1993; make routine dental care available to persons with HIV or AIDS, however, he will be permitted to refer such persons to another dentist when the dental treatment being sought or provided is outside the dentist's area of expertise; ​ post a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, including HIV and AIDS, and inform his staff of the policy; and, ​ undergo training, along with his staff, on dental treatment of persons with HIV or AIDS, infection control in the dental workplace, and the ethical duty of medical professionals to treat persons with HIV or AIDS. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodation, such as medical and dental offices. Testing positive for HIV and having AIDS are both considered disabilities under the ADA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") and the American Dental Association have issued policy guidelines that state there is no medical justification for excluding persons from dental care solely on the basis of their HIV-positive or AIDS status. Both organizations recommend the use of "Universal Precautions" to prevent the transmission of bloodborne diseases, including HIV, in the health care setting. Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations require dental facilities to use Universal Precautions in all dental facilities for all patients, regardless of known HIV or AIDS status. On the same day it filed the Morvant suit, the Justice Department also sued a dental office in Houston for refusing to treat patients with AIDS. In September of 1994 the defendant in that case agreed to pay $100,000 in damages and civil penalties. In March, the Justice Department intervened in a suit in Maine against a dentist who also allegedly refused to treat patients with HIV or AIDS. # # # 95-331