Medical Students, Residents and Fellows Need to Properly Disclose Medical Disabilities in advance of problems
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
We are often retained to provide legal representation to medical school students, residents and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. This may be after they are required to repeat a year, terminated from the program, or have other adverse action taken against them. When this occurs and we investigate the details, occasionally we find that the individual we are representing has a medical history of mental health issues that may have caused or contributed to the problems they are facing.
In many situations, the troubles that are faced could have been avoided if the student or resident had disclosed their medical condition to the school, program, or institution, and requested reasonable accommodations. However, after the adverse action has been taken it is often (but not always) too late to do this.
Use the institution’s forms to report a medical condition or disability.
All major medical schools, universities, residency programs, and hospitals in the United States have offices or departments to receive reports of medical conditions and disabilities and to assist the student/resident in obtaining support, resources and reasonable accommodations to help the student/resident be successful. However, if the institution is never notified of the medical condition or disability and is never given the opportunity to provide reasonable accommodations, then the student/resident has failed to take advantage of an opportunity that exists which may have helped prevent the adverse action that was taken.
If you have a medical condition or disability of any kind, especially one such as depression, learning disability, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, a disease or illness which may affect your performance, or other condition that classifies as an illness or disability, you should be sure that this is diagnosed by the appropriate physician. You must also have that physician formulate reasonable accommodations that your institution, program, school or hospital can take that would help you to accommodate your condition. You should then complete the forms that your institution uses to report this and request reasonable accommodations to help you.
Don’t fear stigma from reporting a medical condition or illness.
We most often find that our clients have failed to report a medical condition or illness and request reasonable accommodations out of a fear that their program, professors, attendings and colleagues will discriminate against them and see them in a lesser light. Actually, the opposite is true. If a medical student our resident is failing academically, is unable to pass exams, or does not appear to be able to handle clinical rotations, it is more likely that the institution will feel that the person does not have the capability or motivation to succeed. However, by disclosing the medical condition or disability, this helps to explain such matters.
Illegal to discriminate based on disability or illness.
There are a number of federal laws and often state laws which protect a student or resident who has a medical disability or illness against discrimination. Additionally, almost all major colleges, universities and institutions have policies and procedures in place which prevent this. However, if the resident or student has not disclosed the medical condition or disability to anyone, there can be no argument made that the person was discriminated against because of this. Therefore, disclosure and a request for reasonable accommodation may be a big benefit in challenging adverse actions.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Medical Students, Residents and Fellows.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents medical students, residents and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. We also represent other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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