Surgeon Pays $75K to Settle Charges He Wouldn't Treat HIV Patient

A Long Island otolaryngologist has agreed to pay $75,000 and attend discrimination training to settle charges he refused to operate upon learning his patient was HIV positive.

In a case that has shocked AIDS activists, a Long Island otolaryngologist has agreed to pay $75,000 and attend discrimination training to settle charges he refused to operate upon learning his patient was HIV positive. The charges were brought under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The settlement was announced by Robert L. Capers, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. It resolves a case brought against William Sher, MD, by a patient who has asked the court to keep his identity confidential.

Individuals with HIV are protected against discrimination in places of public accommodation such as hospitals under title III of the ADA.

"The decision not to operate on a person because of his or her HIV status is shameful," said a spokeswoman for GMHC, the national HIV/AIDS advocacy and service organization, saying GMHC is grateful the US Attorney's office brought the charges.

"Actions like Dr. Sher's discourage HIV prevention and effective linkage to treatment," she said, adding "The fact that this alleged incident occurred in 2016 is even more shocking. "

In announcing the settlement, Capers said “Discrimination against individuals with HIV is not permissible," and that “The ADA requires that doctors and other health care professionals provide appropriate care and treatment to patients without regard to their HIV status. “

Current studies show about 80% of patients with HIV infections present with otolaryngological symptoms. ENTs are often the primary physician at the point of diagnosis.

According to the claimaint, referred to as “J.P.” in court papers, Sher, who practices out of ENT & Allergy Associates in Port Jefferson New York and holds academic appointments at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Stony Brook University, cancelled just minutes before performing a scheduled procedure, citing J.P.’s HIV status.

About a month later a routine neck biopsy was successfully completed, this time by a different surgeon. The tissue sample tested turned out to be cancerous.