A recovering opioid addict is suing a New York hospital claiming he was denied care and medications because of his addiction history, and his lawyers say they hope the lawsuit puts healthcare providers “on notice.”
Shawn Landau, a frequent patient at Good Samaritan Hospital in Westchester County, has been in recovery for opioid use disorder (OUD) since 2019. In a lawsuit filed last month, Landau claims he was denied methadone, one of the Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat OUD. He was also allegedly denied a prescribed intravenous port for taking antibiotics at home to treat a serious infection caused by diabetes.
“The hospital’s actions made me feel like my healthcare wasn’t being taken seriously because I have a substance use disorder,” Landau said in a statement.
Rebekah Joab, a senior attorney at Legal Action Center representing Landau, says she hopes the lawsuit puts “healthcare providers on notice that denying care based on stigma and misconceptions about substance use and treatment is against the law.”
“In the midst of an overdose crisis, it goes against all logic that a person would be denied appropriate healthcare — including to treat addiction — because they have a history of substance use,” Joab said in a statement.
Joab said that substance abuse disorder-based discrimination in healthcare “is shockingly common.”
“We believe this case will set important legal precedent furthering the rights of people with substance use disorders and help ensure that healthcare is not withheld from people who have used drugs,” she said.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, states that, “On two occasions, because Mr. Landau has OUD, Defendants denied him home-based intravenous antibiotics via a peripherally inserted central catheter (‘PICC line’) needed to treat his severe infections.”
A PICC line is a thin, flexible plastic tube that is typically placed in a large vein in the upper arm. One end of the PICC line is left outside the body, while the remainder is placed inside the body, the lawsuit explains. An individual with a PICC line delivers medication into their bloodstream through the external end.
The lawsuit notes that medical literature treats patients with a history of OUD who no longer use illicit substances the same as patients with no such history. “There is no distinction between PICC line placement decisions for people who have previously used drugs versus those who have not,” Landau’s lawyers argue.
“Defendants ignored that Mr. Landau was an appropriate candidate for a PICC line, instead telling him that he was a junkie, and it was Hospital policy to deny PICC lines to people with a history of substance use disorder,” the court document states.
The lawsuit notes that the infections to his foot did not heal and eventually Landau’s left leg was amputated below the knee.”
The lawsuit also notes that on two occasions, the hospital denied him methadone to treat his OUD, causing him to experience withdrawal symptoms
“Defendants’ discriminatory treatment of Mr. Landau reflects pervasive, stigmatizing attitudes against people with OUD that exist even within the healthcare system and present barriers to appropriate care for people with OUD,” the lawsuit says.
Landau’s lawyers argue that the hospital’s denial of the PICC line on the basis of Landau’s “disability” violates the Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law.
Sally Friedman, the Legal Action Center’s vice president of legal advocacy called the lawsuit “timely,” noting that the Department of Health and Human Services just released new proposed amendments to the Rehabilitation Act to “clarify that medical treatment decisions by entities receiving federal financial assistance cannot be based on biases or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities.”
Good Samaritan Hospital did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.