California Supreme Court To Hear Case Charging Discrimination by Doctor
This week, the California Supreme Court is expected to take up a lawsuit in which a lesbian patient alleges discrimination because she was denied artificial insemination at the only local obstetrics and gynecology office covered by her health plan, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Guadalupe Benitez alleges that after the private North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in Vista treated her with fertility drugs for nearly a year, the staff refused to inseminate her because of her sexual orientation. The situation occurred about eight years ago.
Benitez sued the medical group under a state law that prohibits for-profit businesses from arbitrarily discriminating against clients based on certain characteristics, such as race, age and sexual orientation.
A San Diego County trial judge sided with Benitez, but a state appeals court reversed the decision, ruling that the lower court needed to investigate the disputed facts of the case before deciding if the doctors' religious views were a viable defense.
Civil rights and physician groups are closely monitoring the case because some say it could create a precedent for requiring health care providers to participate in other medical procedures, including abortion and euthanasia.
Groups filing friend of the court briefs supporting Benitez' claim include:
- The American Civil Liberties Union;
- California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D);
- The California Medical Association;
- The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association;
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; and
- The National Health Law Program;
Supporters of the doctors' group include:
- The American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists;
- The American Civil Rights Union;
- Americans United for Life;
- The California Catholic Conference;
- The Christian Medical & Dental Association; and
- The Seventh Day Adventist Church State Council (Leff, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/26).