Can A Doctor Refuse to Treat Someone With HIV?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most important federal protection from employment discrimination for HIV+ people. The ADA protects HIV+ people from health care discrimination. State and local laws may also protect HIV+ people from health care discrimination. Under the laws, your doctor or dentist cannot refuse to treat you because you have HIV. Additionally, you do not have to disclose your HIV status to your doctor or dentist, however, in many instances it may be in your best interest to do so in order to maximize the effectiveness of your care and treatment. For instance, it is important for your doctor to know about any HIV medications you may be taking to avoid harmful interactions with other medications. Denial of service must be based on individual assessment rather than a blanket policy against HIV+ patients.
In general, disability discrimination laws prohibit health care providers from refusing services to persons with HIV unless 1) they would not perform the requested service for a person who was HIV-negative, 2) the requested services would pose a "direct threat" to the safety of the health care provider or the patient, or 3) a legitimate referral to another provider is warranted.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a health care provider may refer a person living with HIV/AIDS to another provider if that individual is seeking treatment outside of the provider's specialization or if the provider would make a similar referral for an HIVnegativeperson seeking similar services. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the specific professional organizations for cosmetic and plastic surgeons and obstetricians have determined that practitioners in these fields should not deny care to patients merely because they are HIV-positive. In order to make a lawful referral under the ADA, these providers must make "an individualized inquiry into the patient's condition" and the specific services requested. A health care provider may refuse services to an HIV-positive patient if providing those services would pose a "direct threat" to the patient or to others. The provider has the burden of proving that the patient's disability presents a significant threat that cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation – changes in the provider's practices or procedures that would substantially improve performance.