ACLU of New Jersey Challenges HIV Discrimination

May 17, 1999 12:00 am

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NEWARK, NJ — The ACLU of New Jersey said today that it had filed suit against Shelton Dental Services in Newark and Drs. William E. Shelton and Julius McDaniels for refusing to provide routine dental services to a woman who is HIV positive and for disclosing her medical status to other individuals.

In September 1998, the woman, identified only as C.C. in the federal court complaint, went to Shelton Dental Services for a routine check-up. After her x-rays were completed by a dental assistant, Dr. McDaniels entered the examining room and asked C.C. questions about her medical history. Once Dr. McDaniels learned that C.C. was HIV positive, he refused to treat her and instead referred her to the Special Services Dental Clinic at the New Jersey Dental School.

The complaint alleges that it is the policy of Shelton Dental Services to refuse treatment to all HIV positive people seeking dental services and to refer them to the New Jersey Dental School. The complaint also alleges that employees of Shelton Dental Services unlawfully disclosed to others that C.C. was HIV positive.

“Federal and state law prohibit places of public accommodation from discriminating on the basis of disability,” said Cynthia M. Dennis, the attorney handling the case for the ACLU. “It means that private entities can not deny benefits or services to someone solely on the basis of HIV status.”

The ACLU argues that Dr. McDaniels’ refusal to treat C.C. was a form of discrimination prohibited by the Amercians with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The ACLU also argues that Shelton Dental Services’ blanket policy of referring all HIV positive patients to the Special Services Dental Clinic at the New Jersey Dental School is unlawful.

“All individuals are entitled to medical treatment,” said Lenora M. Lapidus, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “Denying an HIV positive person dental care is blatant disrimination.”

The case, C.C. v. Shelton Dental Services, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Newark Vicinage). Cynthia M. Dennis, Clincal Attorney and Director of the Women and AIDS Clinic at Rutgers Law School – Newark, is counsel for the plaintiff on behalf of the ACLU of New Jersey.

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