11 years after he was mistakenly diagnosed with HIV, an appeals court has said that Terry Hedgepeth’s $20 million Washington DC medical malpractice lawsuit against the Whitman-Walker Clinic can proceed. His original complaint was dismissed on the grounds that he did not sustain any physical injuries from the medical mistake. However, now that the DC Appeals Court has changed the law in the District, emotional injury can be grounds for such a case. Hedgepeth wants compensation for emotional distress, anxiety, weight loss, loss of contact with family and friends, psychiatric facility commitment, suicidal tendencies, depression, damage to his reputation, lost earnings (past, present, and future,) and loss of almost four years of a normal life.
The clinic diagnosed Hedgepeth, now, 42, with HIV on December 13, 2000. He says that the news broke him and he ended up in a psychiatric ward. After his release, he sough treatment for his disease and obtained regular blood tests from the clinic. At the same time, however, he says that his life in havoc. He broke ties with his family because he didn’t want them to know that he was HIV-positive. He also moved into a Whitman-Walker run house for homeless patients, took cocaine, and wanted to die. All the while, he continued to show no signs of infection and he never had to take any meds to treat his HIV.
Four years later, Hedgepeth decided to try holistic treatments and went to the Abundant Life Clinic. A blood test he took there gave him an HIV-negative result. He also tested negative at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
Although the stigma with an HIV diagnosis is no longer as great as it first was in the 80’s, receiving news that you have HIV can wreak havoc on one’s professional life and emotional and mental well-being. Granted, finding out the disease/illness you thought that you had but actually don’t is welcome news, but that doesn’t mean that the misdiagnosis hasn’t already wreaked havoc and taken a toll.
DC Man Files Lawsuit Claiming Whitman-Walker Clinic Wrongly Told Him He Was HIV-Positive, MyFox, July 6, 2011
The Whitman-Walker Clinic told Terry Hedgepeth he had the disease—even though he didn’t. Now he’s looking for payback, Washington City Paper, July 9, 2010
Read the 2008 opinion (PDF)
Related Web Resources:
Living with HIV, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Family’s Washington DC Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleging Paramedic Malpractice Can Proceed, Says Judge, Washington DC Injury Lawyer, March 9, 2011
$17 Million Washington DC Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against District and FEMS Medical Director Over Botched Response to Fatal Heart Attack, Washington DC Injury Lawyer, December 9, 2009
Montgomery County Jury Awards Silver Spring Woman $2.35M Maryland Medical Malpractice Verdict Over Wrong Diagnosis, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 4, 2010