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Blind woman loses discrimination case

24 November 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 235

A US jury has ruled that a fertility clinic in Colorado did not discriminate against a blind woman when it stopped her artificial insemination treatment. Kijuana Chambers, who is blind because she was born prematurely, sued the clinic for discrimination under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Following the six-day trial, she said that she will appeal against the decision, adding that 'hopefully the upper courts will overturn this, and maybe we'll end up going through this whole case again'.

Ms Chambers underwent three attempts of artificial insemination (AI) at the Rocky Mountain Women's Health Care Center during 1999, and also received an infertility drug. 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 at the start of the trial, 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.

Before the case began, a lawyer for the clinic said that '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'. During the case, the doctor who stopped the treatment, Susan Horvath, testified that clinic staff had told her that Chambers had poor hygiene, had trouble dressing herself and was subject to 'emotional outbursts'. She also said that Chambers had no partner, family or other 'support system', and that she wanted an occupational therapist to make sure Chambers could safely care for a child. Horvath said she felt morally obligated to make sure Chambers could raise a child before helping her to conceive, adding that Chamber's blindness was only one of the reasons she stopped treatment.

Ms Chambers has now moved to Iowa and has a daughter, born in January 2001 after she received treatment from a different clinic. Scott LaBarre, one of Chambers' attorneys, said that her legal team will look at the appeals possibilities. But he also said that over 90 per cent of ADA cases are lost, adding 'people still don't understand what disability discrimination is'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Blind mom loses discrimination suit
Rocky Mountain News |  22 November 2003
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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...
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