Hospital settles discrimination complaint with HIV-positive woman

Image of a red stamp that reads, "Case Closed"

A Montgomery County hospital has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a claim brought by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania on behalf of a woman who said she was denied medical treatment because she is HIV positive.

The woman alleged that in 2013 she was turned away from Mercy Suburban Hospital’s bariatric facility after she reported during the intake process that she has HIV.

On the recommendation of her primary care doctor, the woman was seeking bariatric surgery. After learning she had HIV, a doctor who had been scheduled to meet with her told a nurse to inform her he could not do the surgery because she was HIV positive, according to the Justice Department’s investigation.

The doctor never examined the woman or reviewed her past medical records.

The AIDS Law Project filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The department pursued the complaint and on Oct. 5 announced that the hospital had agreed to pay the woman $20,000 in damages as well as a $5,000 civil penalty to the United States. Mercy also agreed to implement a non-discrimination policy, advertise the policy and train employees and contractors to abide by it. Although Mercy settled the complaint, it denied liability.

AIDS Law Project Executive Director Ronda B. Goldfein and Staff Attorney Adrian M. Lowe represented the woman. Assistant United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero investigated the case.