HIV-positive man who says he can't wear a face mask sues Boston Medical Center for refusing to treat him anymore
Update: Judge rejected request for temporary restraining order, saying in part there are other places where he could get the pills.
An HIV-positive man who says he refuses to wear face masks for semi-annual checkups because they make him anxious and sick is suing Boston Medical Center, two doctors there and the state Department of Public Health for $10.7 million because his doctors will no longer write him the prescriptions for the pills that keep his HIV in check.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, the man, identified as John Doe, is also asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order requiring his BMC doctors to write out prescriptions for the anti-HIV drugs he says he will run out of on Thursday.
Doe says that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit here in March, 2020, his doctors at first switched him to telemedicine checkups, after which they would authorize another six months worth of the pills.
After the hospital began allowing patients to resume non-emergency visits, but on condition they put on face masks, he said he tried once to comply, in September, 2021, and immediately developed symptoms that included anxiety, itchy eyes and a burning feeling in his throat. Afterwards, he says, he developed a rash on his face, and in particular on his upper lip, that lasted for several weeks. He says he has experienced similar symptoms other times he's put on a mask due to Covid-19 requirements elsewhere.
When he returned for his next appointment, in February of this year, he says, he refused to put on a mask and was not allowed in to see his doctor - who, however, agreed to write him a prescription for another six months worth of pills.
Then he hired a lawyer to help negotiate a "reasonable modification" to the hospital mask requirement in his case. On Sept. 7, his complaint says, he went to the hospital for his semi-annual exam and blood test and with a copy of a letter from his attorney seeking such a modification and a phone in video record mode. He got to his doctor's waiting room, where the receptionist handed him a mask and asked him to put it on, he refused and she summoned security. Two guards arrived, asked him to put the mask and he again refused, after which they left, only to return with a hospital official who told him he could either put a mask on or leave and let the lawyers sort it out.
The complaint alleges that state Covid-19 regulations allow for exemptions from mask requirements for medical reasons, that he has proven he has such reasons and that the hospital and the two doctors who had been providing his care need to begin providing his care again.
He alleges that on his Sept. 7 visit, he saw four employees of the hospital's Infectious Diseases Center who were either maskless or who work their masks under their noses, and that afterwards, a BMC official told his lawyer he would have to find another place to get care if he did not comply with BMC's mask requirement.
He added that on Oct. 12, he ran out of his pills and went to the BMC emergency room to seek more pills but was denied. The complaint says he managed to find another source, but for only enough pills to last him through this Thursday.
The formal counts in his complaint include invasion of privacy, medical battery, medical assault and violation of the state Patients Bill of Rights and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to the monetary demands, he is seeking an order making the hospital resume his prescriptions and that he be allowed to get care at BMC without having to wear a mask.
|Complete complaint||736.22 KB|
|Request for a temporary restraining order||95.83 KB|
|Judge's ruling rejecting temporary restraining order||95.32 KB|
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If all they have to do is run
If all they have to do is run blood work and check on him why can't they schedule a home visit of some sort? What do they do with people who are severely compromised with mobility etc?
Oh that's special
When asked for medical proof that he had these symptoms, he'll probably say he tried to get examined, but the doctors wouldn't see him because he wouldn't wear a mask.
Anyway, good luck to him!
Calling security is really overkill. If we treated people with dignity and in a down to earth manner, a lot of our problems could be solved.
Take two to tango
On what planet is that treating the doctors office staff with dignity and down to earth manner?
a more efficient way to resolve this problem
For $8.7 million, I'll design and fabricate a mask for this guy that doesn't touch his face in any of the sensitive areas, is lined with the same stuff scarves and balaclavas are made of, is temperature- and humidity-controlled by a USB rechargeable air conditioner, and plays the 70s disco music of your choice.
Not everyone can wear masks
Where the other first responders who want to sue are basing their suits on either religious claims or other nebulous claims this person's suit sounds like it is based on legitimate concerns.
Medical folks do not like it when a patient disagrees. The BMC response of calling security is absurd. But then my health provider, Fenway Health, staff use "gentle intimidation" when patients do not obey like good little children. Industrial medicine does not like it when human beings act like human beings.
Denying the patient his life preserving meds is a direct attempt at intimidation. That is medical thuggery. Another example of how industrial medicine prefers people to be machines; how it is anti-human.
Disheartening that we still hear this almost 3 years later
Medical folks do not like it when a patient threatens the health of other patients and refuse to follow clear guidelines on masking. To this day my partner has to gently remind grown adults of this fact.
No matter how many temper tantrums or careful crafted screeds you throw out, it won't change that simple fact.
This specific case sounds very different from your case, sorry your were firmly reminded to wear a mask.
"Denying the patient his life preserving meds is a direct attempt at intimidation. That is medical thuggery."
Did you know FENWAY was good for this too. You know if I didn't go in every three months and have blood work done, they would cut me off from medication. And did.
I'll say it. Fenway sucks. They suck. They have always sucked.Not just for this reason but for many others. But because they are 'the gay doctor' they cannot do no wrong.
They did the same to me as they did as this guy as BMC. But I wasn't protested a mask policy, it was INCONVIENENT to trek to their new office on Boylston every three months. And since at the time, they did not outsource their lab, I *HAD* to go there.
Like this guy I got angry. I didn't lawyer up, I just went somewhere else. (and found out that 3 month blood work was unnessary, in fact if you are mostly healthy in that dept, you go once a year for blood work!)
So yeah. I just looked at Fenway and said "I don't like this " and went elsewhere. Thats what escapes me with this lawsuit, why didn't he just do that.
But yeah, many health orgs do this now, even my current one if I go longer than a year, I get nagging phone calls. Its what the CDC requires now, and to be frank, you gotta have that blood work once a year to know if the drugs are working well. I see why they would cut him off after a while. (but 3 months at fenway for me was stupid.. and knew better)
PS - I hate fenway with a passion if I haven't said so enough.
I went to Fenway Health during the time I was unemployed (2018), because the health insurance I was on (based on my unemployment insurance - IIRC it was BMC HealthNet) would not let me see my doctors over at Atrius at Kenmore or any of my local doctors in West Roxbury.
It wasn't a bad experience - the funny thing was that I never saw my PCP, but only the nurse practitioner, who was terrific. After I was re-employed and regained less expensive health insurance, I left Fenway and got a new PCP.
I didn't realize that Fenway pulled these passive-aggressive stunts for compliance for certain situations - in the handful of times I went there, I never experienced that kind of manipulation.
If it's based on legitimate medical concerns
shouldn't he have been able to get a letter stating such from an actual medical professional, rather than just his lawyer stating such?
Its people like this
Who give people like me a bad reputation.
I'm HIV+. Been that way for 22 years. This guy names me sick to think he is using his illness as an execuse to be maskless. Whiney little baby who was upset that he had to put on a mask to be seen.
His illnesses are fake. Or at least all in his head. I'd love to hear a reputable doctor's report about how the dude probably needs psychatric help because of these 'illnesses'. No one, NO ONE has reported any of these symptoms from wearing a mask. So he's just fill of sh*t.
And what an asshole in itself. He knew the mask policy was in place, he should have worked with them on it if he felt uncomfortable. No, instead he lawyered up and went in with a recording device and recorded the whole thing because he knew he would be asked to leave once he refused to put on a mask. To me, sounds like he is looking for a payday and setup BMC to pay up. What a load of crap. What an asshole.
And selfiish too. When I found out in 2000 I had HIV. I had AIDS. I was going to die. I had a T-cell count of 4. You know if it was today and I had to go into a Drs office where a paitent refused to put on a mask.. I'd blow a gasket or more.
Why? Because I got a dealthy flu from riding the T right before the time I found out I was positive. Someone was sick and within close proximity. It took 3 months to get over that.. THREE MONTHS because I had no immune system. In fact, because it took three months to get over it (along with other aliments), that I went to the Dr finally and was seen. And put on medication.
But if it was covid? I would have died to an asshole like this who refused to be maskless at the doctors office.
Infectious Disease department and guy refuses to wear a mask. So many levels of selfishness and stupidity here.
I hope he loses. I hope he loses big.
PS - You know I was unhappy with my old doctor and the way I was treated at the facility, so you know what? I went somewhere else. No lawsuit. No fuss. Just up and left. This guy could have the same. You don't need to see an ID anymore to get these drugs, most PCPs can diagnose and perscribe them.
So would a letter from a psychiatrist confirming his anxiety and/or a letter from a dermatologist confirming masks cause him to experience itchy eyes, a burning feeling in his throat and a rash on his face allow him to get his meds from Boston Medical Center? I know a letter from a lawyer has no medical standing whatsoever.
I can see both sides of this
Yes, we definitely shouldn't have unmasked folks in public settings where immunocompromised folks need to be safe, but if someone legitimately has sensory/panic symptoms with masking, we need to provide a way for them to receive their services as well. I've heard from people that it has been hard to get medical documentation for having these issues with masking, because they hadn't previously had to deal with masks, and of course it's been hard to access healthcare in the past few years.
There is ADA caselaw that a firm diagnosis/documentation isn't always necessarily needed for accommodations, and they do typically have to be provided while the person is in the process of firming up a diagnosis and services. I would think that the program would be required to do telehealth or a home visit in this case.
As a matter of broad public policy
As a matter of broad public policy, how can we accommodate the most people and provide the best outcome to the most people, without getting into the sticky wicket of deciding who "legitimately" can't follow a public health mandate and who simply won't. It's the age old dilemma of distinguishing the person who's acting unreasonably and has a DSM code from the person who's acting unreasonably because they're an asshole. Trying to draw that distinction may be a fool's errand.