A Catholic hospital in New Jersey is accused of denying a gay and HIV-positive man his HIV medications, as one doctor on staff reportedly stated, “for going against God’s will.”
“Joao Simoes sued Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Union County Superior Court,” the Courthouse News Service reports. “He says that the hospital admitted him in August 2011, but that requests for his lifesaving medication were not honored, and his sister was denied visitation rights.”
Susan V. Borga, M.D., from the Department of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry, allegedly approached Simoes while he was confined to the hospital’s mental health wing. Borga is not named as a defendant.
Simoes says Borga was unfazed when another patient told her that he had just gotten out of prison, where he served time for murder. But her reaction was allegedly different when Simoes said that he did not work because he planned to go back to school and because of his HIV status.
Borga then allegedly asked Simoes how he got HIV, to which he responded, “I got it from unprotected sex.”
The complaint then says that “Dr. Borga closed the plaintiff’s file, put it down and looked at plaintiff with disgust on her face and asked, coldly, “Is that from sex with men?”
Simoes says he responded affirmatively and that, “immediately after hearing this, Dr. Borga proceeded to exit the room.”
After this consultation, no nurse or doctor came to see Simoes, even though he told them that he needed to take his HIV medication, according to the complaint.
When the hospital finally permitted Simoes to call his personal physician on the third day of his stay, he learned that the doctor had already spoken with Borga about Simoes’ medication, according to the complaint.
Borga allegedly responded: “You must be gay, too, if you’re his doctor.”
“Additionally, apparently realizing that plaintiff’s doctor had an accent, Dr. Borga exclaimed, ‘What, do you need a translator?’ to which plaintiff’s doctor had again responded that Dr. Borga needed to give plaintiff his HIV medication,” the complaint states.
“Dr. Borga responded to plaintiff’s doctor by stating, ‘This is what he gets for going against God’s will,’ and hung up the phone on plaintiff’s doctor.”
The University of California at San Francisco AIDS Research Institute notes:
Treatment failure may occur rapidly with poor adherence. Some studies suggest that drug resistance can develop after one week of missed medication or irregular use, or after missing as little as one dose in five. When resistance to a drug develops, it loses its effectiveness forever; in some cases, cross-resistance to other drugs occurs, further limiting treatment options.
Joao Simoes says in court documents he missed five doses as a result of the hospital’s actions. Presumably, the trial will reveal what damage was done to his health, daily well-being, and ability to survive was done by the hospital’s actions.
The non-partisan Hastings Center, which focuses on issues of bioethics, states:
- Conscientious objection in health care cannot be framed solely as an issue of individual rights or beliefs because it always affects someone else’s health or access to care.
- Health care providers with moral objections to providing specific services have an obligation to minimize disruption in delivery of care and burdens on other providers.
“Recognize and respect the dignity and value of life in every stage and condition.”
Trinitas states its mission is “to provide excellent, compassionate healthcare to the people and communities we serve, including those among us who are poor and vulnerable.”
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