Debate Flares Over
Firing Of HIV-Infected
Dental Hygienist
By Karla Gale
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Eleven national organizations are challenging the firing of a dental hygienist on the basis of his HIV status. The organizations include the American Public Health Association, the American Dental Association, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In 1997, dental hygienist Spencer Waddell's physician informed his employer of his HIV status. The employer, Dr. Eugene Witkin of Valley Forge Dental Associates in Atlanta, Georgia, fired Waddell, and the former employee filed suit.
``The fact that very reputable professional organizations are concerned about science and the integrity of their positions takes away the notion that this is just a self-interested party arguing his case,'' attorney Stephen R. Scarborough, of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund's Atlanta office, told Reuters Health.
According to the briefing filed by Scarborough, ``Dr. Witkin admitted that he has no training concerning HIV transmission. He has never attended any seminars devoted to discussion of HIV and its impact on dentistry.... He even confessed to uncertainty as to whether HIV is transmitted through sweat.''
A lower court dismissed Waddell's lawsuit, concluding that he posed a significant risk of HIV transmission to patients.
Scarborough said that this case is the first to follow the 1998 US Supreme Court decision in Bragdon v. Abbott, which requires that decisions about whether healthcare professionals pose a significant risk of transmitting HIV to patients be scientifically based.
``It's particularly important to Waddell that he be evaluated based on his ability to practice well and safely rather than based on stereotypes or inflated concerns or irrational fears,'' Scarborough said.
Among those supporting Waddell is Dr. Donald Marianos of Northern Arizona University, a participant in the development of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1991 protocol concerning the management of HIV-positive healthcare workers.

This Site Served by TheHostPros