More MS news articles for November 1999

Appeal date is set for case of disabled student's test accommodations

The medical student with MS does not want hospital residency programs to know about any special treatment.

By Joseph A. Slobodzian


A federal appeals judge yesterday set aside a lower court order that barred the National Board of Medical Examiners from divulging to hospital residency programs the special test accommodations it made for a Virginia medical student with multiple sclerosis.

Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Edward R. Becker, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, granted the national board's request of a stay of the lower court order, pending appeal. He set Nov. 22 for a hearing on the physician-licensing group's appeal.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Philadelphia-based national board from "flagging" the test scores of a Richmond, Va., medical student identified as "John Doe."

Angell wrote that annotating Doe's test results to show he was granted more time and other accommodations to help him cope with the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis would identify him as being disabled, hurt his chances in the competitive application process for residency, and violate his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Angell's opinion noted it would be illegal under federal law for a retail store to require a credit-card applicant to divulge whether he or she has epilepsy, mental illness, or some other disabling ailment.

Gabriel L.I. Bevilacqua, the lawyer for the national board, said the appeals court's stay would not affect Doe unless he asks the board to report his scores to a residency or internship program. The board only reports scores at a student's request, he added.

E. Elaine Gardner, of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which represents Doe, said she hoped the appeal would not cost Doe the chance to apply for an internship or residency program.

Doe, whose affliction causes muscular spasms and periodic incontinence, had applied to about 20 programs nationwide but had not yet requested the national board to forward his medical licensing test scores to the programs.

"We're hoping there won't be any impact," Gardner added. "It's a very expedited appeal schedule and we'll have our hearing before Thanksgiving."

According to court documents, Doe graduated from Harvard University in 1988, followed by the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and worked as a lawyer for five years before deciding to go into medicine. He ranks in the top fifth of his Medical College of Virginia class.

 Gardner said he wants to practice physical and rehabilitation medicine.