A Los Angeles man is suing his doctor and a Southern California healthcare network, saying they ignored his request to remove a notation describing "homosexual behavior" as a "chronic problem" on his medical records.
Matthew Moore, 46, who is openly gay, said he was shocked to see his sexual orientation still described as a chronic condition more than a year after he complained about the use of the archaic medical classification.
"It was infuriating. It was painful," he said of his decision to sue. "It was another attempt by this doctor and this medical group to impose their agenda of discrimination and hate onto a gay patient."
As reported in September by NBC4, Moore discovered the description in his medical records after undergoing a routine physical in April 2013 by Dr. Elaine Jones of the Torrance Health Association.
The diagnosis was coded as 302.0, an archaic classification from The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (commonly known as the ICD). Code 302.0 "homosexual behavior" was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973.
Moore said when he confronted Jones in May 2013, she defended the description by saying that the medical community goes "back and forth" on whether or not homosexuality is considered a chronic condition.
Moore wrote a letter complaining about the designation to the Torrance Memorial Health Association and received a prompt apology:
"We would like to unequivocally state that the Torrance Memorial Physician Network does not view homosexuality as a disease or a chronic condition, and we do not endorse or approve of the use of Code 302.0 as a diagnosis for homosexuality," Torrance Health Association Senior Director Heidi Assigal wrote to Moore.
The association also issued a media statement saying the designation had been used as a result of "human error" and claiming that "upon notification by the patient the record was corrected."
Moore said he let the issue go, thinking the problem had been solved. But when he obtained a copy of his medical records in May, he said he was stunned to see that while the 302.0 code had been removed, "homosexual behavior" was still listed under "chronic problems."
He said he later was given a second copy of his records on a CD, which did not contain the entry.
That prompted him to file suit in July against Dr. Jones, the Torrance Health Association Inc. and the related Torrance Memorial Physician Network, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and libel.
That suit also alleges that the defendants "engaged in a pattern of deceit and medical record doctoring in an attempt to establish that they had earlier removed and retracted the defamatory content, when in fact they had not removed and retracted the defamatory content until the latter part of May 2014."
It seeks both punitive and compensatory damages.
In a "motion to strike" filed Aug. 6, attorneys for the defendants argued that Moore’s complaint was both "vague and ambiguous" and urged the court to dismiss parts of the lawsuit.
In a statement provided to NBC News on Monday, the Torrance Memorial Physicians Network said that employees unsuccessfully made "every effort" to remove the information from Moore’s records.
"Due to the highly complex software used in creating an electronic medical record, the incorrect code continued to exist in an electronic table only," it said. "As a result, this incorrect diagnosis code was included on a paper copy of the record, which was provided only to the patient."
Moore said he felt he had to sue after finding the entry a second time.
"I gave them chance after chance and this time I’m not going to be silent. My silence would condone this activity," he said.
Jones declined to comment through a spokeswoman for the Torrance Memorial Health Association.
Shane Snowdon, who heads the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s health and aging program, said that Moore’s case is not an aberration.
"Unfortunately, this kind of ignorance and bias is still all too common among health professionals," she said. "This incident underlines the importance of our ongoing efforts to educate healthcare providers about knowledgeable, respectful treatment of LGBT Americans. When we consult a physician, we have a right to expect care uncontaminated by personal prejudice."
But Moore said he hopes it can be a teaching moment.
"I don’t want any gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual ever to hear from a doctor that their normal and healthy sexuality is anything other than that," said Moore, noting that suicides among LGBT youth is higher than other groups. "Maybe we all just saved a life today."
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