ACLU Files Suit Against Healthcare Providers Who Discriminated Against Lesbian Patient

May 12, 1999 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — Medical care shouldn’t be hazardous to your health. Yet that’s exactly what it is for the majority of lesbians and gay men. Studies have consistently shown that — as with people of color and other minority groups — gay men and lesbians are frequently discriminated against in healthcare.

In June of 1998, having just received her health benefits from her new employer, Michelle Dupont was seen for an initial appointment with Dr. Ronald Axtell, who was to be her primary care physician. During the course of the appointment, Dr. Axtell asked Ms. Dupont what type of birth control she used, and she replied that she did not use birth control because she is a lesbian.

Immediately after the exam, Dr. Axtell told Ms. Dupont that, in the future, she needed to see a different doctor because he did not approve of “what” she was. Ms. Dupont asked if this was because she was a lesbian, and Dr. Axtell replied, “Yes.” He then made a notation in her medical records that he had told the patient that he could not continue to treat her because she is a lesbian.

The experience of Michelle Dupont, a lesbian and a person of color, is not an isolated incident. That is why the ACLU of Southern California filed a civil rights suit on her behalf today in Superior Court against her former healthcare providers: Health Net Life Insurance Company, Bristol Park Medical Group, and Dr. Ronald Axtell.

As Michelle Dupont told me, “This is no different from the way African Americans in my family were treated 30 years ago. I deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as any other human being.”

In California, all businesses open to the public must treat their clients equally, without regard to differences such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. The ACLU has filed suit on Ms. Dupont’s behalf because no one should be denied adequate medical care based on prejudice.

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