U.S. Attorney's Office Settles Disability Discrimination Case With New England Orthopedic Surgeons
BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached an agreement today with New England Orthopedic Surgeons (NEOS) in Springfield, Mass. to resolve allegations that the practice violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by turning away patients who were also being treated for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).
“The Americans With Disabilities Act protects healthcare access for people under medical treatment for Opioid Use Disorder,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “Health care providers must comply with the ADA, even when doing so is inconvenient or makes them uncomfortable.”
According to multiple complaints, in 2019, two patients being treated with buprenorphine, a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder, sought full-joint replacement from NEOS surgeons. The government found that though NEOS surgeons could have accommodated the patients, they ultimately referred the patients elsewhere because the surgeons were not comfortable with the post-operative pain management protocol needed for patients prescribed buprenorphine, thereby violating the ADA.
Individuals receiving treatment for Opioid Use Disorder are generally considered disabled under the ADA, and denial of a medical procedure because a person is taking a medication to treat a disability, when the medical procedure is still possible for persons taking the medication, violates the ADA.
Under the terms of the agreement, NEOS will, among other things, adopt a non-discrimination policy, provide training on the ADA and Opioid Use Disorder and pay two complainants $15,000 each for pain and suffering.
This matter is part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to enforce Title III of the ADA to eliminate discriminatory barriers to treatment for Opioid Use Disorder. This is the Office’s fifth settlement agreement with healthcare providers since May 2018 resolving allegations of ADA violations arising from Opioid Use Disorder treatment.
This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Dorchak of Mendell’s Civil Rights Unit.