By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 15 2014 6:13 PM ET
A Southern California man is filing a lawsuit against his former doctor and the facility where she works, claiming the doctor lied about removing a diagnosis that listed "homosexuality" as a "chronic condition."
A year ago, Matthew Moore, who is gay, was shocked when his new doctor listed "homosexual behavior" — along with an outdated medical reference code not used since homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973 — among the man's "chronic conditions."
After seeing the diagnosis following his routine physical exam in May 2013, Moore says he challenged physician Elaine Jones on her diagnosis, but contends that Jones stood firm, claiming that the medical professiona "goes back and forth" on whether homosexuality is a disease, according to Los Angeles TV station KNBC.
Last August, Moore complained to the Torrance Health Association, which runs the doctor's office he visited, and received a prompt apology from the organization, promising that the company did not endorse the use of the outdated diagnosis, and was taking steps to ensure the error didn't happen again. That letter, dated July 29, 2013, also stated that Moore's medical record had been corrected, he told KNBC.
But now, more than a year after Moore first informed the health care company about the error, he says a copy of his medical records he recently obtained still lists his "homosexual orientation" as a "chronic problem."
"I never said I had an issue with my sexuality," the 46-year-old told KNBC Tuesday. "So I imagine that she thinks it's wrong."
Frustrated with the company's inability to correct his records, Moore has now filed a lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court against Jones, Torrance Health Association, and Torrance Memorial Physician Network. The suit alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress and libel, and seeks punitive and compensatory damages, according to KNBC. But Moore says his decision to sue was primarily motivated by a desire to help protect young people from antigay discrimination in health care.
"If a young person went in and was told by a physician that their normal and healthy sexuality was a medical problem, a condition, or a disease, that could be very devastating," Moore told KNBC.
The Torrance Health Association issued a statement claiming the unamended record was a technical error — the result of a complex record-keeping system that is difficult to update — and not an example of willful antigay animus.
"Due to the highly complex software used in creating an electronic medical record, the incorrect code continued to exist in an electronic table only," it said. "As a result, this incorrect diagnosis code was included on a paper copy of the record, which was provided only to the patient," Torrance Medical Physicians Network said in a Monday statement to KNBC. That statement reiterated the network's stance, articulated in its 2013 apology, that it "unequivocally … does not view homosexuality as a disease or a chronic condition."
But the Human Rights Campaign says Moore's experience is one that is all too common, as LGBT people often encounter discrimination and incompetence in medical settings.
"Unfortunately, this kind of ignorance and bias is still all too common among health professionals," Shane Snowdon, leader of the HRC Foundation's health and aging campaign, told KNBC. "This incident underlines the importance of our ongoing efforts to educate health care providers about knowledgeable, respectful treatment of LGBT Americans. When we consult a physician, we have a right to expect care uncontaminated by personal prejudice."
Watch KNBC's report below.