STA, 25 February 2019 - A dentist from north-eastern Slovenia has been found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient in what is the first such ruling in Slovenia, a decision considered a key milestone in discrimination case law.
This is the first time a healthcare employee was found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient, the newspaper Večer says on Monday about the court case that was closed to the public.
The dentist was ordered to pay EUR 2,700 in compensation to her former patient by the Maribor Higher Court in mid-2018.
The HIV-infected man saw the dentist in March 2016 and told her during the first visit that he was being treated for HIV. The dentist sent him for a dental x-ray.
The next week, when he came back for treatment, she told him he should get a new dentist. In court, the dentist claimed that she sent him away because she had only one set of particular instruments, which she could not sterilise in one afternoon.
However, both the first and the second instance courts ruled against her. The patient was eventually admitted by another dentist working at the same health centre, Večer reports.
The man reported the incident to Patient's Rights Ombudsman Vlasta Cafnik, who turned for help to the Medical Chamber but did not receive any response despite sending several emails and letters to several people in the organisation.
The patient also turned to the healthcare inspectorate, which responded that the Medical Chamber was in charge of such issues. He wrote to the chamber as well but received no answer and ultimately opted to hire a lawyer.
A mediation with the dentist was launched. It took a year before she wrote him an email, saying that she was aware that her treatment was demeaning and discriminatory.
The patient, who felt that the apology was not sincere, decided to take the dentist to court after her malpractice insurance company rejected his complaint.
She was found guilty at the first instance in April 2018. She appealed but the Higher Court upheld the first instance ruling in July 2018 and she ultimately paid the EUR 2,700 fine.
In response to the newspaper report about the case on Monday, the Medical Chamber said it was unacceptable to turn away a patient infected with a contagious disease.
"It needs to be taken into consideration, however, that such a case may affect organisation of work in the sense of rescheduling the appointment of the patient or other patients to ensure safe treatment of everyone present.
"All health staff has a duty to act in a way so as not to expose other patients to the risk of infection," the chamber said in a release.
The chamber said that it had received queries about the case from the patents' rights ombudsman in the previous term. In this term oversight was conducted with the dentist but "no departure from expert doctrine or work in comparable doctor's offices was established".