Disability Law

Does ADA require nursing homes to admit obese patients?

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Rising obesity rates in the United States are creating new dilemmas for nursing homes confronted with the increasing costs of caring for overweight patients.

Nursing homes throughout the United States are routinely declining referrals from hospitals that want to transfer obese patients, the New York Times reports. “Whether these routine denials violate anti-discrimination laws is unclear,” the Times says, “especially because the degree to which obesity is a legally protected disability remains unsettled.”

Lawyer Eric Carlson of Justice in Aging argues the Americans With Disabilities Act protects severely obese patients with significant physical impairments. “That’s what the Americans With Disabilities Act is meant to protect against,” he tells the Times.

In one case, the GlenShire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Illinois agreed to admit a severely obese patient who filed a discrimination complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights. The patient had initially been denied admission.

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