Schizophrenic Man Has Case Over Donation Ban

     DENVER (CN) – A plasma-donation company that turned away a would-be donor because of his schizophrenia must face discrimination claims, the 10th Circuit ruled.
     Octapharma Plasma rejected Brent Levorsen at its donation center in Salt Lake City after an employee expressed concern that Levorsen might have a schizophrenic episode during the donation process.
     Even though Levorsen presented two doctors notes that expressly said he could safely donate plasma up to two times a week, Octapharma still refused to let him donate.
     Levorsen noted in his complaint that he suffers from various psychiatric disorders, including borderline schizophrenia.
     He took Octapharma to the 10th Circuit last year after a federal judge dismissed his case.
     Because access to such public accommodations is protected under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Octapharma would have to be recognized as a public service for Levorsen to have a true discrimination claim.
     The lower court agreed with Switzerland-based Octapharma that it had the right to turn Levorsen away on the grounds that its plasma donation centers don’t provide a public service in exchange for a fee, since the centers are the ones forking over money.
     The federal appeals court reversed 2-1 Tuesday, with the majority blowing through the lower court’s “superficial distinction” about accepting or offering payment.
     “A PDC is a ‘service establishment’ for two exceedingly simple reasons,” U.S. Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz wrote for the court, abbreviating plasma-donation centers. “It’s an establishment. And it provides a service.”
     The 14-page ruling says the conclusion flows naturally from an ordinary interpretation of the words “service establishment.”
     “We won’t bend over backwards to give the term ‘service establishment’ a definition that is more narrow than the plain meaning of its component parts,” Moritz said, joined by U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Briscoe.
     The opinion concludes: “Because Octapharma is an establishment that provides a service, it is a service establishment.”
     Judge Jerome Holmes wrote in dissent that the compensation Octapharma offers does indeed make all the difference.
     “Plasma-donation centers resemble manufacturers much more than they do the typical business that provides services to the public. [PDC’s] manufacture a product: plasma,” Holmes wrote. “They derive this product from a raw commodity — i.e., whole blood — that donors provide in exchange for a fee. In this regard, plasma-donation centers are more like paper mills — a type of manufacturer — than the typical business that provides services to the public.”

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