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Dublin: 4°C Monday 24 January 2022

HIV positive woman to receive €10,000 in compensation after dentist stops treating her mid-procedure

The dentist agreed to provide a written apology to the woman.

Image: Shutterstock

A DENTIST REFUSED to treat a woman while in the dentist chair and under anaesthetic after she disclosed to him that she had HIV status. 

The dentist and dental clinic has agreed to pay the woman €10,000 in compensation and the dentist has agreed to provide a written apology to her. 

This followed the woman agreeing to withdraw her discrimination case under the Equal Status Act which she had brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). 

The woman brought her discrimination claim with the assistance of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). 

Prior to the woman’s dental appointment, she 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. 

On explaining that she is taking her HIV medication, the dentist withdrew his service raising his perceived concerns regarding contamination. 

The woman at the centre of the case welcomed the settlement. She said:

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 okay 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.”

The woman added:

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. 

She also stated: “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.” 

In the settlement, the dental clinic has 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. 

In most cases, HIV is a sexually transmitted infection but it also be transmitted through the sharing of needles with someone who is HIV positive and not on effective HIV treatment. 

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.” 

The IHREC 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. 

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

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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