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Friday, July 26, 2013
Justice Department Settles with Bariatric Clinic in Michigan and Pennsylvania Over HIV Discrimination

The Justice Department announced today that, as part of its Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, it has reached a settlement with Barix Clinics under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Barix Clinics operates bariatric treatment facilities in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  The settlement resolves allegations that Barix Clinics violated the ADA by refusing or cancelling surgery for two individuals because they have HIV.  This is the fifth settlement that the Justice Department has reached this year addressing HIV discrimination by a medical provider.

 

 The Justice Department found that Barix Clinics unlawfully refused to perform bariatric surgery on a man at its Langhorne, Pa., facility because he has HIV.  The department also determined that Barix Clinics cancelled bariatric surgery for another individual, Mr. Frank Hill, at its Ypsilanti, Mich., facility because of his HIV.  The department’s investigation revealed that Barix Clinics’ actions were not based on individual assessments of the patients or based on current medical knowledge.

 

 “Erecting unnecessary barriers to medical care for people with HIV can further exacerbate their condition and their marginalization in society,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  “These are the barriers that the ADA and the Justice Department seek to tear down.”

 

 “Blanket exclusions of patients with HIV are misguided and illegal," said Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  “Under the law, caregivers cannot withhold care unless the decision is based on current medical knowledge about the particular patient and condition, not on stereotypes about a disability.”

 

Under the settlement, Barix Clinics must pay $20,000 to the first complainant, $15,000 to Hill and a $10,000 civil penalty.  In addition, it must train its staff on the ADA and develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy. 

 

In the past six months, the department has reached five settlement agreements with medical providers to address HIV discrimination.  All five settlements are part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation, to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities.  The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of 40 U.S. Attorney’s offices and addresses access to health care for people with HIV and those with hearing disabilities, as well as physical access to medical facilities.  The department has reached a total of 18 settlements (including these five) regarding medical providers’ failure to provide access for people with HIV or who are deaf or hard of hearing.  For more information on the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative visit http://www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm .

 

For more information on the ADA and HIV, visit www.ada.gov/aids .   Those interested in finding out more about these settlements or the obligations of public accommodations under the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov .  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov .

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