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Blind woman sues US clinic for discrimination

13 November 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 234

A fertility clinic in Colorado, US, is being sued by a blind woman who alleges that it discriminated against her. Kijuana Chambers says that the Rocky Mountain Women's Health Care Centre stopped treating her in 1999 because she was blind.

Ms Chambers says that she underwent three attempts of artificial insemination (AI) at the clinic during 1999, in order to overcome a problem with ovulation. But, she alleges, her treatment came to an abrupt end when she refused to consult an occupational therapist about the safety of her home. Commenting on her situation, Ms Chambers told a newspaper that while she was used to having difficulty finding employment because she is blind, she did not ever 'expect to be having this kind of conversation, when it comes to having children'. 'The doctor treated me like I wanted a new doll for Christmas', she said.

A lawyer working for the clinic issued a statement last week saying that the AI treatment had been stopped because Ms Chambers 'demonstrated behaviours that caused concern about her ability to safely care for a child'. He stated that she had not told the clinic the truth about her domestic situation, in particular regarding whether she had a partner and others who could help her look after a baby. 'As a result', he said, 'the centre believed ethically and morally that further treatment should be delayed until Ms Chambers was able to provide assurances that she could safely care for a child alone'. One of the lawyers acting for Ms Chambers said that the statement from the clinic proved discrimination, saying 'a sighted person would not have been asked the same questions'. A representative of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition said 'the woman was told because she is blind, she can't be a parent', adding 'we have not encountered or seen any other case like this, where a disability has deprived a woman of artificial insemination'. Mark Rothstein, a professor of Bioethics, Health and Law at the University of Louisville, said that the case may breach the Americans with Disabilities Act. 'A doctor cannot refuse to do a procedure because a woman is blind or place new conditions on continuing treatments', he said.

Ms Chambers has now moved to Iowa and has a daughter, born in January 2001 after she received treatment from a different clinic.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Blind woman sues fertility clinic
Denver Post |  7 November 2003
Woman says fertility clinic discriminated
The New York Times |  8 November 2003
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