A federal judge in Alexandria rejected yesterday an attempt by two physicians to gain accesss to lifesaving kidney dialysis equipment at a private Northern Virginia health clinic.
District Court Judge Oren R. Lewis rebuffed claims by the two physicians that the clinic should be open because federal funds are used to pay most kidney patients' fees, and that patients had a constitutional right to choose their own physician.
"I just don't buy that," Lewis said.
Drs. Robert E. Greenspan and Steven Tolkan said in a suit filed Dec. 18 that Dr. Raphael J. Osheroff and the Northern Virginia Dialysis Center, which he directs and illegally prevented them from returning to treat patients at the clinic after they left in a dispute last month.
Greenspan and Tolkan had sought $600,000 each in lost salary from Osheroff, the clinic and its two Boston-based corporate owners.
"I'm exhausted," Greenspan said after the decision, "but it's an issue that must be heard -- the patient has a right to choose his own physician."
Tolkan added, "We tried to make a moral issue out of this and we were accused of being interested only in money."
On Wednesday, Lewis said the two doctors appeared more interested in "bartering" for patients at the clinic before they left than in providing "humanitarian" care, an assertion both men denied in testimony.
Kidney patients face death without dialysis treatment, which removes poisons from the blood. Eighty percent of the treatment, which costs $23,000 annually, is paid by federal funds.
Greenspan and Tolkan said yesterday they have not decided whether to appeal Lewis ruling.
A separate aspect of the suit alleging that the clinic and the owners are operating an illegal monopoly of dialysis care in the area will be heard at a future date, Lewis said.