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Pennsylvania Coroner Sued for Refusing to Care for Poz Patient and Family at Doctor's Offices

Pennsylvania Coroner Sued for Refusing to Care for Poz Patient and Family at Doctor's Offices


After his first blood test results came back, a man, his wife, and their daughter were all "dismissed" as patients at a Lancaster family practice owned by the public official, who certainly should know how HIV transmission works.

A private health-care practice directed by the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, coroner was sued in federal court today by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania on behalf of a man who says he was denied treatment because he is HIV-positive. According to the suit, the Jones family — the plaintiff, his wife, and their minor daughter, who are using pseudonyms because federal rules require that a minor child’s identity be protected in a lawsuit — were all booted from care by Stephen G. Diamantoni, M.D., & Associates Family Practice, after the dad tested positive for HIV. (Stephen G. Diamantoni, who has been the Lancaster County coroner since 2008, did not personally treat Jones but owns five offices in Lancaster County.)

According to Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq., executive director of the AIDS Law Project and co-counsel on the case, his family had been getting regular health care with Diamantoni's practice since they moved from South Carolina to Pennsylvania in June 2013. Prior to their move, Jones contacted the medical practice to "secure health care for himself and his family" and he was seen in June, July, and August 2013, without event.

Then, he says, on Oct. 4, 2013, his blood was drawn for the first time during a routine visit to the practice’s Quarryville office.  Four days later, he returned to the office to discuss his results and was "astonished to be given a letter from William R. Vollmar, M.D., dismissing him and his family as patients."

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 and conclued that, “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.”

Because refusing to treat a person with a disability, including HIV, is illegal under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, AIDS Law Project got involved to help the Jones family.

“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 and co-counsel on the case. “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.” 

“The law is clear: You can’t refuse to treat a person simply because he or she has a disability — in this case, HIV,” said Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen, an attorney at Berger & Montague and co-counsel in this case. “Also, these protections extend to anyone else associated with a disabled person, including their family.”

“The AIDS epidemic is now in its fourth decade — and, sadly, this kind of discrimination still happens all too frequently, even in the health-care field,” said Adrian M. Lowe, staff attorney at the AIDS Law Project and co-counsel on the case. 

Among other things, the suit seeks that the Diamantoni practice develop an anti-discrimination policy and conduct training for all staff regarding HIV disease, transmission and universal precautions. It seeks awards for compensatory and punitive damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

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