New England Orthopedic Surgeons settles with US Attorney on discrimination case

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A U.S. Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office has settled a discrimination case with New England Orthopedic Surgeons (NEOS) in Springfield.

In 2019 the U.S. Attorney’s office received complaints on behalf of two patients being treated with buprenorphine, a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder, who sought full-joint replacement from NEOS surgeons. An investigation determined 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.

“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.”

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.

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