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Amicus · Loss · Final Disposition on December 31, 2002

Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Associates

GLAD filed a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case of an HIV-positive dental hygienist who was fired after his doctor revealed his HIV status to his employer. A federal appellate court in Atlanta had ruled that the hygienist was a “direct threat” to patients and therefore that his termination was not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In contrast to the cases in which courts have ruled against doctors who refused treatment to HIV-positive patients arguing a “direct threat” (see discussion of Bragdon v. Abbott, below), courts have reacted to cases involving discrimination against HIV-positive health care providers with irrational fear and disregard for the scientific evidence. In effect, the courts have required proof of zero threat from the health care worker, a virtually impossible standard. Although the Supreme Court declined to decide this case and clarify what “direct threat” should mean in this context, the willingness of courts around the country to uphold the termination of HIV-positive health care workers who perform invasive procedures remains one of the most pressing legal challenges ahead.