A coroner is a public official who can investigate the death of a person in his or her jurisdiction. But now, the private medical practice run by the coroner of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is itself under legal scrutiny -- for denying treatment to a man with HIV and his family.
On Dec. 1 -- as people around the world commemorated World AIDS Day -- the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania filed suit against Stephen G. Diamantoni, M.D., & Associates Family Practice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of the man, and his wife and daughter (known as the Jones family because, as the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania notes in its press release, it is mandated that a minor child's identity not be revealed in a federal lawsuit.)
After relocating to the area, Jones visited the practice three times in the summer of 2013. In October, he gave blood samples during a routine visit. It was on the follow-up visit to get the results when he received a letter from William R. Vollmar, M.D., saying Jones and his family were being dismissed as patients. (Stephen G. Diamantoni did not treat Jones directly.)
According to the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania:
The letter claimed that at his last visit, Jones had "left a large amount of blood all over the sink, walls and floor" of the office's bathroom. The letter continued: "We feel since you are knowledgeable of your diagnosis that this behavior is inappropriate ... this dismissal stands for all members of your family as well."
The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to refuse service to a person with a disability, including HIV. Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen, an attorney at Berger & Montague and co-counsel for the case, also noted in the press release that ADA protections cover all who are connected to a disabled person, such as family members.
The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania has won other federal suits for HIV-related violations of the ADA, including the well-publicized case of the Milton Hershey School denying admission to a student with HIV.
"This outrageous story is just a false pretext for denying care to a man because of his HIV status," said Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq., executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and co-counsel on the case, in the press release. "This fabrication depicts our client as a reckless person, but in fact he's a conscientious family man who sought out health care before moving to the area. It strains credulity that he would then do something like this."
According to the press release, the suit asks the federal court to mandate that the medical practice, which has five locations, "develop an anti-discrimination policy and conduct training for all staff regarding HIV disease, transmission and universal precautions." It also asks for payment for "compensatory and punitive damages, costs and attorneys' fees."
The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania has made the full complaint available.
Julie "JD" Davids is the managing editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.