A judge has ruled that a cosmetic surgery firm which refused to operate on three patients because of their positive HIV status did so wrongly.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres ruled that the decision to deny breast reduction surgery to three men violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Torres wrote in the opinion that the firm, Advanced Cosmetic Surgery of New York, failed to properly consider the medical facts before making the decision not to operate.
She said that it was up to the firm to prove that “the application of any criteria screening out individuals with HIV was ‘necessary’.”
The ruling comes after Mark Milano filed the lawsuit in 2015 and claimed that the firm had a blanket policy of refusing surgery to anyone who is HIV positive no matter the circumstances.
Lawyers for the firm said that the case boiled down to whether their licensed physicians could be held liable for refusing the surgery based on their own judgement of the patients’ medical history.
They wrote: “This case is not about a physician who holds discriminatory animus toward HIV+ patients.
“Importantly, this case is not about fear of infection by the physician or his staff when treating HIV+ patients.”
However, the judge concluded that the blanket refusal of HIV positive clients was “insufficient”.
The claimant’s lawyer, Ali Frick, said: “Discrimination against people living with HIV remains a pervasive problem.
“A doctor cannot hide behind his medical degree to discriminate against patients.”
Scott Schoettes, an attorney and HIV Project director at Lambda Legal told NBC News: “Sadly, this type of discrimination — even by doctors — is far too common.
“Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided (in Bragdon v. Abbott) that health providers cannot hide behind their personal ignorance regarding the facts about HIV to deny people services.
“Very rarely would a person’s HIV status provide a valid medical reason not to perform a health service, and people living with HIV should know that and assert their rights in situations like this.”