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Ophthalmologist’s refusal to admit patient with assistance dog violates patients’ rights

The District Court for Kraków-Podgórze ruled that an ophthalmologist’s cancellation of an appointment of Jolanta Kramarz, a blind patient travelling with an assistance dog, constituted a violation of patients’ rights.

The Commissioner for Human Rights brought the action against the medical doctor on Ms Kramarz behalf. The HFHR has joined the case.

Cancelled appointment

Let us remind our readers: in 2015, Jolanta Kramarz wanted to use medical services of an ophthalmologist. She made a telephone appointment and later emailed the doctor’s office that she would arrive with her assistance dog that accompanies her on a daily basis. As soon this became apparent, the doctor cancelled the appointment and gave the patient addresses of other ophthalmology clinics. He informed the patient that the appointment was cancelled because of the need to determine whether he is able to provide medical services to persons travelling with assistance dogs.

In the lawsuit filed on Ms Kramarz behalf, the Commissioner sought one thousand zlotys as compensation for moral injuries on account of a violation of patients’ right. The claimant also demanded that the doctor be ordered to make a charitable payment as a remedy for the violation of her personal interests.

Court’s judgment

The court held that the ophthalmologist had unreasonably refused to perform a medical service for Jolanta Kramarz, which resulted in a violation of patients’ rights. Given the above, the court awarded compensation for moral injuries to the claimant.

“The court emphasised that the ophthalmologist was guilty of misconduct. If the doctor decided that the dog should not be present in the treatment room for sanitary reasons, he should have explained his doubts to the patient and propose a solution to this problem, for example by suggesting her leaving the dog in the waiting room under the care of his clinic’s personnel. In the court’s assessment, the cancellation of the appointment was not such a solution”, says Jarosław Jagura, a counsel who appeared on the HFHR’s behalf in the proceedings.

The court noted that the ruling does not determine whether the patient and her assistance dog should or should not enter the treatment room. Furthermore, the court decided that the personal interests of Ms Kramarz had not been violated and dismissed the claim for a charitable payment.

“Crucially, the court confirmed that a person’s disability and the fact that they move around with an assistance dog may not constitute a basis for a refusal to provide medical services available to everyone”, explains Mr Jagura.

The judgment is not yet final. A decision on an appeal against the judgment will be taken after a review of the written grounds of the judgment.

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