Originally published on Advocate.com July 19 2003 12:00 AM ET
The state has suspended the license of a New Hampshire dentist for refusing to treat a lesbian patient and for berating another patient. The board of dental examiners found that in March 1999, Joseph Roper Jr. refused to treat Tricia Thompson, a patient of his for almost three years, for a painful infected tooth after he found out that she considered herself married to a female partner. The board also said that in June 2002 he lashed out at a patient he'd treated twice before when she moved around in discomfort as he replaced old fillings in her teeth. The board found that Roper "committed professional misconduct," it wrote in a settlement agreement reached with him last week. Roper neither confirmed nor denied the accusations. However, he agreed to suspend his practice. The settlement says Roper's suspension will only be lifted if a psychiatrist determines he can practice dentistry safely, professionally,
and competently. Roper, who did not return calls to his office Thursday, was giving patients referrals, a receptionist said.
In her first visit to Roper's office in 1996, Thompson identified a female partner as her spouse on a "get-acquainted card" she filled out. According to the settlement agreement, Roper acted professionally toward her until March 23, 1999. Instead of calling Thompson into his office to replace her medicated filling, Roper confronted her in the waiting room with her old card in hand. He asked her why she had written down a woman's name, according to the settlement. When Thompson responded that she was married to a woman, Roper refused to provide her further medical treatment and told her loudly that
same-sex marriages were against his belief. "During the same conversation...and while in his reception area where other people were present, Dr. Roper asked of [Thompson], 'Do you have AIDS?' " the settlement read. "Immediately thereafter, [Thompson] took control of her dental record."
A civil case filed against Roper was settled in 2001. Jennifer Levi, a Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders attorney who represented Thompson in that case, said, "New Hampshire law is clear--that if you are going to open up your services to the general public, you can't deny anyone treatment because they're gay and lesbian."