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DOJ sues ophthalmology practice with 24 facilities for disability discrimination

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The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center PC (BDP), an optometry and ophthalmology medical provider, for discriminating against patients who, because of their disabilities, need assistance in transferring from their wheelchairs to the surgical table for outpatient eye surgery. BDP operates 24 facilities in Arizona.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Arizona, alleges that BDP violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to provide patients with disabilities the transfer assistance they need — assistance that is routinely provided by healthcare providers across the country. Instead, BDP requires these patients to hire third-party medical support personnel to transport them to and from BDP facilities and to provide transfer assistance at the facilities. Patients who are transported by third-party medical support personnel are brought into the facilities on gurneys or stretchers and are required to remain on them until surgery. This practice denies patients with disabilities full and equal access to BDP’s health care services and impermissibly imposes a disability-based surcharge on such patients by forcing them to pay extra for treatment.

“Discrimination on the basis of disability is unacceptable anywhere, and especially in the critically important area of health care,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Discriminatory healthcare practices deny individuals with disabilities access to essential services and can delay needed treatment. Through this lawsuit, the department continues to vigorously enforce the ADA, which has prohibited discriminatory treatment by medical providers for more than 30 years.”

Through the lawsuit, the department asks the court to stop BDP from discriminating against individuals with disabilities, including by training its staff to provide patients with assistance in transferring to and from their wheelchairs. The department also seeks money damages for those people who were harmed by BDP’s discriminatory policy, including those who were forced to pay for third-party transfer assistance in order to receive services.

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