Justice Department Expands Arizona Lawsuit Alleging Disability Discrimination in Access to Surgical Care

Justice Department Expands Arizona Lawsuit Alleging Disability Discrimination in Access to Surgical Care

The Justice Department filed an amended complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to add American Vision Partners (AVP) as a co-defendant in the department’s lawsuit against Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center (BDP). The amended complaint alleges that AVP and BDP discriminate against patients who, because of their disabilities, need assistance transferring from their wheelchairs for eye surgery.

AVP provides management, training, policies and guidance, staff, infrastructure and technology to BDP and other eye care medical practices with nearly 80 facilities in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas including: Southwestern Eye Center, M & M Eye Institute, Retinol Consultants of Arizona, Abrams Eye Institute, Southwest Eye Institute, Aiello Eye Institute, Havasu Eye Center, Visage Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery and Moretsky Cassidy Vision Correction.

In its original complaint, the department alleged that BDP required patients with disabilities who need transfer assistance to use and pay for third party medical transport and transfer assistance as a condition of surgery, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The amended complaint adds allegations that AVP and BDP have also denied eye surgery outright to patients who need transfer assistance. The United States alleges that this discriminatory practice delays needed medical care and results in significant harms to individuals who need eye surgery, including continued eye pain, vision loss and a loss of independence.

“No one should be refused healthcare services simply because they need help transferring from a wheelchair to a surgery table,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Denial of needed surgery based on unfounded assumptions and stereotypes about disability violates the ADA and devalues the lives, health, dignity and independence of individuals with disabilities.”

The department is asking the court to stop AVP and BDP from discriminating against individuals with disabilities, including by adopting non-discriminatory polices related to transfer assistance and training its staff to provide patients with wheelchairs transfer assistance. The department also seeks money damages for those people who were harmed by AVP’s and BDP’s discriminatory policies and practices, including those who were denied medical services and those who were forced to pay for third-party transfer assistance in order to get surgery services.

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