Judge Orders Hospital To Eliminate Waiting List For AIDS Treatment
DALLAS (AP) _ A judge has ordered a hospital to eliminate a waiting list for AZT, the only federally approved AIDS drug, and to begin offering an experimental treatment to indigent patients.
State District Judge John M. Marshall signed a temporary restraining order Thursday against Parkland Memorial Hospital after the Dallas Gay Alliance and five Parkland patients filed a lawsuit claiming the hospital failed to provide adequate treatment for AIDS patients.
The lawsuit also listed seven ″John Doe″ plaintiffs who Parkland officials say died in recent months while waiting to receive AZT.
Marshall ordered a trial within 30 days to determine whether a special master should be named to monitor Parkland’s handling of AIDS patients.
″To whom must the victim turn?″ Marshall said in a strongly worded statement. ″Obviously, the public must intervene or else adopt a policy that says, ‘Let them die because we can’t afford them.’ Such a result is not tolerable in a society that for over 200 years has prided itself on placing human values first.″
William Waybourn, president of the gay alliance, said he is ″gratified that the judge has ruled in favor of life,″ and added, ″It’s unfortunate that Parkland did not listen to us before now.″
Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland’s chief executive officer, said in a statement after the ruling that the county’s only public hospital must balance the needs of AIDS patients against increasing numbers of other indigent patients, including pregnant women, elderly people and trauma victims.
″AIDS patients are very ill at times and require compassionate, humane care that we are doing our best to deliver,″ Anderson said.
The patients receive treatment at a clinic that Parkland jointly runs with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The clinic is providing treatment for 679 patients suffering from AIDS; AIDS-related complex, a less- serious form of the disease; or the virus that causes the disease.
Tom Cox, chief legal counsel for Parkland, said the hospital intended to comply with Marshall’s order. However, he indicated that AIDS patients still may have a difficult time seeing a doctor at the clinic.
″I can say we will eliminate the (AZT) waiting list, but when they (AIDS patients) can get an appointment to the clinic and when they can see a doctor is another issue entirely,″ Cox said.
The suit accused Parkland of violating state and federal laws by not providing enough doctors to handle the number of AIDS patients and by withholding some treatments that are readily available to patients at other hospitals.
Parkland officials said they have been unable to find physicians interested in working at the AIDS clinic.
There are 20 patients with AIDS-related complex on the waiting list to receive AZT, said Parkland spokeswoman Esther Bauer. It was not known how soon those patients would be given the drug, which has been shown to prolong the lives of some AIDS victims, she said.
Parkland also must begin offering an experimental drug, pentamidine isethionate, to AIDS patients, Marshall ruled.