This settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") and Barix Clinics (“Barix”) highlights the protections afforded to people living with HIV in the context of elective medical procedures – in this case, bariatric surgery for weight loss. DOJ filed a complaint claiming that Barix violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) when one of its facilities refused to treat a patient seeking bariatric surgery due to his HIV status, and that another facility forced a patient to move his bariatric procedure to a different surgery center when his original surgeon learned he had HIV. Barix denied that it violated the ADA, but entered into the settlement agreement to avoid the expense and uncertainty of trial.
As part of the settlement agreement, Barix agreed not to discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, including HIV. Barix further agreed not to deny, discourage, or withhold medical treatment on the basis of a patient’s HIV status. Barix may still deny a procedure if, based on an individualized assessment of the patient, it feels it would be inappropriate, though it must notify the United States within 14 days with a written justification should this denial be due to the patient’s HIV status. Additionally, Barix agreed to draft a written policy setting forth the above provisions, as well as provide training on the ADA and the new policy to all employees and clinical staff. Finally, Barix agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000, and $20,000 and $15,000 to the complainants, respectively, to compensate them for the harm caused by Barix’s denial or delay of treatment.