Settlement reached in 2 HIV-related discrimination cases
Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Frank Hill.
The Justice Department announced Friday it has reached a settlement with Barix Clinics regarding allegations that the clinic violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing or canceling surgery for two individuals because they were HIV-positive.
One allegation stems from the cancellation of Frank Hill’s bariatric surgery at the clinic’s Ypsilanti location, 135 S. Prospect St. The other from a man in Langhorne, Penn., who was refused surgery by the clinic altogether.
The Justice Department determined Barix Clinics, which operates bariatric treatment facilities in Michigan and Pennsylvania, unlawfully refused to provide Hill’s treatment as well as treatment to the man in Langhorne because the two were HIV-positive.
Hill said he was medically cleared for gastric bypass surgery by a doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital and the surgeon at Barix Clinics who was going to perform the procedure.
After the surgery was scheduled, the hospital called and informed Hill that hospital administration had decided not to perform the operation because certain staff members were uncomfortable working on someone who is HIV-positive, he said.
"My surgeon disagreed with the decision and fought with administration," Hill said. "As soon as I filed the lawsuit they offered to give me the surgery if an infectious disease doctor was in the operating room. Eventually I did get my surgery, but it took me standing up for myself first. It was probably one of the most depressing times of my life."
Investigation of both cases by the department showed the clinic's cancellation and refusal of treatment was not based on individual assessments of the patients or based on medical knowledge, according to a press release.
The settlement states Barix Clinics must pay $20,000 to the man denied treatment in Langhorne and $15,000 to Hill. The clinic also owes a $10,000 civil penalty.
The settlement also requires Barix Clinics to train staff on the ADA and implement a policy on anti-discrimination.
This is the fifth settlement reached by the Justice Department with medical providers regarding HIV-related discrimination. The agreements are part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, which works to aid in the enforcement efforts of critical areas for those with disabilities.
Barix Clinics could not be reached for comment Friday.
Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.