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Lawsuit: Man Denied HIV Medications by Religious Doctor

Lawsuit: Man Denied HIV Medications by Religious Doctor June 5, 2012

Courthouse News Service reports on a lawsuit that has been filed against Trinitas Regional Medical Center in New Jersey, alleging that an HIV-positive man was denied access to medications and visitation by family members due to a doctor who said he deserved what he got for violating God’s will.

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.”

These are just allegations at this point, of course, and a trial should reveal whether those things actually happened. But if those things are true, that doctor and clinic should pay through the nose. And it also brings up those very broad “personal conscience” exemptions for doctors and nurses. We hear from the religious right that doctors and nurses should be allowed to deny treatment to a patient on the basis of their religious beliefs. I’d like to hear them defend the doctor’s right to do so in this case.

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