“Shy bladder syndrome” -- the medical term for difficulty urinating in front of others -- has become the seemingly unlikely topic of litigation in Iowa.
It all began last June, when plaintiff Jennifer Conner applied for a job as organ transplant financial coordinator at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. The hospital offered her the job, but told her that she would need to provide a urine sample before she began working, the suit alleges.
According to the suit, Conner was diagnosed with paruresis, or “shy bladder syndrome,” as an adolescent. She deals with the condition by flushing the toilet, running water, or avoiding bathrooms with multiple toilets, the suit says.
“If Conner cannot flush the toilet or run the water in the sink, she is generally unable to urinate in a public restroom,” according to the complaint.
The suit says that Conner informed two nurses that she suffered from the condition “and that it might therefore take her awhile to provide a urine sample.”
However, according to the suit, Conner was told that the hospital typically allowed only four minutes to provide the sample, and that a nurse would knock on the bathroom door when time was up. Conner was then “placed ... in a restroom with no running water and no flushing toilet,” the suit alleges.
Conner was unable to urinate even as the four-minute time limit closed in, so she says she left the bathroom to tell the nurse she needed more time. Conner was given two more minutes, the suit alleges, after which time a nurse “informed Conner that someone else needed to use the restroom and instructed Conner to go back to the waiting room.”
Conner was given a third chance to try and provide a urine sample, according to the suit, but “could not provide a urine sample under the conditions as they were.”
Conner says she asked if she could provide a blood sample or use a catheter to provide a sample to the hospital, but was told that she should simply “go to lunch and come back and try again.” Conner left, knowing that she would be unable to provide a sample, the suit alleges.
Ultimately, Conner’s job offer was rescinded, and she was told that she could not apply again for at least a year.
Foundation: It's a “phobia”
The Urology Care Foundation describes the condition as “a phobia that involves fear and avoidance of using public bathrooms and an irregular idiopathic form of urinary retention (when you are unable ‘to go’).”
“Paruretics face difficulties ranging from work problems (when they have to submit a urine analysis for drug testing) to traveling on long plane rides to every day social situations,” the foundation’s site says.
Conner, who obtained a master’s degree in health care administration in 2012, alleges violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.