Woman Refused Dental Service upon Disclosing HIV Status Secures Legal Settlement

 Legal Representation Provided by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today welcomed the settlement in the case of a woman who was refused a dental service on disclosing her HIV status. The Commission provided legal advice and representation to the woman in bringing her case to the Workplace Relations Commission (‘WRC’).

Prior to her appointment, the woman had disclosed her HIV status to the Dental Clinic. Subsequently, during the procedure, while seated in the dentist chair, and after she was injected with anaesthetic, the woman was asked by the dentist, whether she was taking medication. Upon explaining that she is taking her HIV medication, the dentist withdrew the service raising his perceived concerns regarding contamination.

The case, which was brought under the Equal Status Acts (the ‘ESA’), was withdrawn when the woman secured an agreement that the dentist agreed to provide a written apology. The clinic and dentist also agreed to pay her €10,000 and the dental clinic committed to finalising and implementing 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.

Under its legal functions, as set out in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Commission can, in certain circumstances, provide legal assistance to a person who wishes to bring a matter of human rights or equality of treatment before the Courts or the Workplace Relations Commission. It was with this legal assistance that the woman challenged the decision.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission 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.”

The woman at the centre of the case also welcomed the settlement:

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 ok 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.” 

“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.”

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.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Visit our website www.ihrec.ie or follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to Editor

As the details of the aforementioned settlement are subject to legal privilege, we are precluded from making any further comment on this matter.

 The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

 

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