A dentist who refused to treat a woman while in the dentist chair and under anaesthetic after she disclosed to him that she had HIV status has agreed to pay the woman €10,000 in compensation.
In addition to this the dentist has agreed to provide a written apology to the patient in question.
Before attending the dental appointment, the woman had disclosed her HIV status to the dental clinic. Then, during the procedure, after she had been injected with anaesthetic, the woman was asked by the dentist whether she was taking medication. At this point she advised the dentist that she is taking her HIV medication. The dentist then withdrew his service raising his perceived concerns regarding possible contamination.
Speaking about the incident the woman at the centre of the case said: “I felt embarrassed, ashamed and I was really stressed and very anxious. Playing the whole scenario in my head again made me feel a kind of rejection. I went in confident thinking they knew my status and it was okay for them to help me, but after what happened it has had a huge impact on my self-esteem. It took me back to the time when I first found out about my HIV status. The woman added: “I had no idea that what they had done was wrong until after speaking to my doctor. I feel like going to the WRC helped me, as I believe the clinic is now aware that their conduct towards me was wrong. I feel better hoping they will not treat anyone that way, not only because they agreed compensate me, but also because staff will receive awareness training.”
As part of the settlement, the dental clinic has said that it will put in place an appropriate company policy that reflects their commitment to equality and will ensure that similar incidents do not arise in the future. The dental clinic will also provide equality and diversity, including HIV, training to its employees.
The woman also agreed to withdraw her discrimination case under the Equal Status Act which she had brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Commenting on the case, HIV Ireland stated: “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Some dentists and dental services continue to refuse treatment to people living with HIV, incorrectly believing that there are special places to treat people who are HIV positive.”
Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan stated: “Dentists, just like other service providers are obliged to meet the commitments of the Equal Status Acts which protects people against discrimination. The clear message from this settlement is discrimination of this nature is not acceptable and should be challenged.”