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HIV-positive man says phlebotomy school denied his admission

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Oct 15, 2012

Phlebotomist needle blood

HOUSTON - After the Smithwood Medical Institute allegedly barred him from enrolling in its phlebotomy school because he has HIV, Houston resident Bryan Rockhill has filed a lawsuit. 

Court papers filed Oct. 11 in Houston federal court claim Rockhill is qualified for the program and the defendant's "discriminatory refusal" violated numerous anti-discrimination laws that protect the rights of those with HIV.

Rockhill claims he informed program director Raquisha V. Smith about his HIV positive status. He says Smith considered him "as having a disability and impairment by virtue of his infection with HIV."

He alleges the director told him his HIV status would prevent him from being accepted into the phlebotomy school. A phlebotomist is a lab worker trained to draw blood from patients.

The suit states Rockhill insisted "he presents no greater risk to patients and coworkers than any other member of the medical team."

Rockhill adds Smith, who is not a defendant in the case, confirmed that the denial was based solely on his disability, stating any other reasons do not exist.

He argues "there is no legitimate, scientific or epidemiological reason" to prohibit him from training as a phlebotomist or pursuing a career as a phlebotomist.

There has never been a reported case of a patient or coworker contracting HIV from an HIV positive phlebotomist, the original petition says.

The suit asserts Rockhill's rejection was based "on unfounded assumptions, unwarranted fears, prejudice and stereotypes that have no foundation in fact" and not current medical knowledge or scientific studies.

Smithwood's actions apparently caused the plaintiff to seek therapy as well as develop "a fear of future stigma and discrimination due to his HIV status."

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Derek Merman with The Merman Law Firm in Houston is representing Rockhill.

Case No. 4:12-cv-3034

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