FEBRUARY 27, 1987/MONTROSE VOICE 23
AIDS Doctor Expected in Court
By Susan Kuczka
CHICAGO (UPI)—The decision to bar a
Cook County Hospital physician
infected with AIDS from physical contact with patients is expected to have
nationwide implications, officials say.
Members of the medical and legal profession say they are confident the courts
will eventually rule in favor of the
afflicted physician, who is fighting the
Cook County Board's unprecedented
But they are fearful the board's ruling
this month will undo AIDS education
efforts aimed at increasing public
awareness about how the deadly disease is transmitted.
"A serious harm has been done to the
public's understanding of the spread of
this disease," said Dr. Renslow Sherer,
head of the AIDS program at Cook
County Hospital. "It is not transmitted
by a wide variety of interactions that
include a physician touching a patient
during a physical examination.
"I think that message has been
clearly confused in the mind ofthe public as a result of this action. It's important to understand that this action
applies not only to this individual but to
other physicians and health-care
The Cook County Board, which governs activities at the 1,400-bed hospital
that employs 700 full-time physicians,
rejected the accepted guidelines set
forth by the federal Centers for Disease
Control in Atlanta by voting to keep the
physician away from patients.
The CDC guidelines require that
health-care workers afflicted with
acquired immune deficiency syndrome
take certain precautions to avoid
spreading the disease.
HOUSTON (UPI)—Nearly 40 percent
of the Harris County Jail inmates who
voluntarily submitted to AIDS testing
last year had been exposed to the virus,
the jail's medical director said recently.
Dr. Ronald Haley said 172 of the 436
inmates tested last year, or about 39 percent, had been exposed to the virus that
causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
The jail testing program began in
January 1986 to provide a medical service to the inmates. Of those tested, 396
were male and 40 were female, with 161
men and 11 women testing positive, he
Haley emphasized that no scientific
conclusions can be drawn from the
results because most of those tested
were members of high-risk groups for
Those prisoners showing positive
tests are offered counseling while they
are in custody and medical attention if
they show symptoms of the disease.
Inmates who have AIDS are not
separated from the rest of the jail population, he said, adding there was no
medical reason to segregate them.
"We can't force anyone to take this
test," Haley said. "In a lot of ways, I
wish we could, because then we would
have some data we could rely upon.
There is no scientific basis for this atall
because it's not random."
Even within the high risk groups, the
testing is stri.-lly voluntary, hr s;ml.
The guidelines have been endorsed by
the American Medical Association and
the American Hospital Association.
Hospitals in New York, San Francisco
and I_os Angeles, where AIDS also has
claimed physicians as victims, are following the guidelines, officials say.
But the precautions set forth in the
guidelines were not enough to persuade
the Cook County Board that the physician, a 10-year veteran of the hospital
who has requested anonymity, should
be allowed to continue his work with
"There's just too many unknowns
with respect to the disease," said board
Commissioner Richard A. Siebel. "The
medical profession is working with
limited knowledge and research."
"Let's be real," said Commissioner
Rose Marie Love. "There's a lot of fear
and hysteria about AIDS. We must
always, as public officials, make sure
Cook County Hospital has no kind of
stigma attached to it. The majority of
County's patients don't have a choice
about going anyplace else."
In addition to the board's concern
about the spread of the disease, board
President George W. Dunne said the
possible legal ramifications of thesitua-
tion were taken into account.
"There's a certain knowledge about
the creativity and capability ofthe legal
profession to initiate and trigger all
kinds of lawsuits, and the payment (of
damages) would be made not individually by the medical profession but by the
5 million citizens of Cook County."
At least one lawsuit already is being
prepared—at the request ofthe stricken
Harvey Grossman, legal director of
the Illinois branch of the American
Civil Liberties Union, said he plans to
sue in federal court, claiming the
board's action violates the rights of
"It's (the board's decision) particularly tragic because not only are they
making a victim of this physician
twice—first because of his illness and
then because of his dismissal—but
they're potentially making a victim of
the entire community by dispensing
information that lacks logic," Grossman said.
"It will have a significant impact on
the health-care system by taking people
who are competent, and can safely
deliver quality care, out of the system.
In essence, it confuses the public and
undermines the trust that health-care
people have worked hard to establish."
Medical professionals agree the only
known transmission of the disease
AIDS is through intimate sexual contact, use of contaminated needles and
through the mother's placenta to her
Dr. Burton Anderson, chairman of
the infectious diseases department at
the University of Illinois Medical
School, said he was confident the courts
would overturn the board's decision.
But he expressed concern about its
effect on the rest of the medical community.
"Doctors, nurses, people in almost all
professions and activities, will have
AIDS," he said. "This is a major
national epidemic. I am concerned it
(the board's decision) may influence
other counties and cities to take similar
action. And the more we feed fears by
going along with them, the worse it's
going to get."
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