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Request for Accommodation by Disabled Med School Applicant Exceeds ADA

November 18, 2014
Source: Business Insurance

A disabled medical school applicant request for accommodation exceeds what is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, says a federal appeals court in upholding a Missouri medical school withdrawal of her acceptance.

Emily McCulley, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which necessitates use of a wheelchair for mobility and limits her arm strength, was admitted to the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas, in 2011, according to a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Emily McCulley v. The University of Kansas School of Medicine; Steven Stites, M.D.

After her admission, her physician filled out a form indicating she would need a staff person to asset her with lifting and positioning patients, stabilizing elderly patients and performing “basic life support,” according to the ruling.

After the medical school clinical facility reviewed the requested accommodations, the school rescinded her admission when its interim dean concluded she could not meet the Motor Technical Standard, which related to its accreditation. The standard mandates that students be physically able to carry out diagnostic procedures and provide general care and emergency treatment to patients, including opening obstructed airways, among other procedures.

Ms. McCulley filed suit against the school seeking her admission be reinstated, and asserting that the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 entitled her to compensatory damages.

The U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, granted the school summary judgment dismissing the case, concluding that the disability of Ms. McCulley would require the school it to make substantial changes to its education program that go beyond ADA requirements.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling.

“Although McCulley does not intend to pursue a physically demanding specialty, she must nevertheless meet the Motor Technical Standard because (the school) uses a broad, undifferentiated medical curriculum that prepares students to serve as physicians in a wide range of practice areas. The ADA does not authorize us to make sweeping revisions to the content of medical school curricula,” said the appeals court in affirming the case dismissal.

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