Skip to Main Content

Need help understanding your rights as an LGBTQ+ person or someone living with HIV? Click here to visit our virtual Help Desk.

Case brought against a doctor, clinic and health care institution after a woman was refused necessary surgery because of her HIV status.

In addition to living with HIV while incarcerated, 35-year-old Melody Rose experienced serious health problems with her gallbladder. Rose’s physician referred her to Fond du Lac Regional Clinic, where she met with Dr. Steven Cahee to discuss having her gallbladder removed. When Cahee learned of Rose’s HIV status, he refused to perform surgery on her—stating he was concerned she might infect him and his surgical team. Later, a surgeon at another medical facility removed Rose’s gallbladder in what is considered a routine surgical procedure.

Lambda Legal and AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Rose. The lawsuit alleges that those who were asked to provide health care to Rose—Dr. Cahee, the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic and Agnesian HealthCare, Inc.—violated both federal and state law by refusing to do so based on her HIV status. Rose has claims under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its state law counterpart—both of which prohibit disability discrimination by places of public accommodation. Rose also has claims under the Rehabilitation Act (which prohibits disability discrimination by those receiving federal financial assistance) and a Wisconsin state law that specifically forbids health care providers (and others) from denying services to people based solely on their HIV status.

    • February 2009 Lambda Legal and AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) file federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
    • November 2009 Dr. Cahee, the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic and Agnesian Healthcare file motions for summary judgment.
    • July 2009 U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin rules that discrimination claims filed by Lambda Legal and the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) on behalf of Melody Rose may proceed to trial.
    • December 2010 Lambda Legal and ARCW announce that the case has been resolved.