Feds Slam Plastic Surgeon for Bias Against HIV

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A New York-based plastic surgeon who refused to operate on a man living with HIV violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal complaint alleges.
     The Department of Justice filed the complaint Wednesday on behalf of a 50-year-old Manhattan resident it says developed a condition called gynecomastia, either from the regimen of drugs he takes to treat his HIV or from a bout of cancer that is now in remission after he underwent chemotherapy in 2007.
     Gynecomastia causes fatty deposits in the chest, and the anonymous patient went on the Internet to find surgeons specializing in that condition.
     Emmanuel Asare, who founded Advanced Cosmetic Surgery on the Upper East Side, was the top result, and the man scheduled an appointment for July 14, 2014, according to the government’s complaint.
     Asare allegedly turned the man away when he disclosed his HIV status.
     The man complained to the Department of Justice a day later, prompting an investigation that began on Sept. 19, 2014.
     In the complaint, Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta notes that “being HIV-positive, even if asymptomatic, as well as living with cancer, diabetes, obesity, stroke, DVT, clotting disorders, Hepatitis B and C, chronic viral infections, and neurological conditions, are all disabilities for the purposes of the ADA.”
     Authorties say Asare defended his discrimination in response to government inquiries, telling investigators in a Dec. 10 letter that he does “not perform life-saving surgeries.”
     “As a result, all our patients should be in healthy condition,” Asare said, according to the complaint, which attaches the letter as an exhibit. “Any condition that a patient has that to the best of my knowledge will potentially have any negative effect on the outcome of the surgery will disqualify the patient.”
     Asare allegedly disclosed further ADA-noncompliant practices by adding that he would not operate on clients with other “medical conditions like obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, recent stroke or heart attack, history of some types of cancer, history of DVT in the past, clotting disorders, history of active Hepatitis B and C as well as other chronic viral infections, history of HIV infection, some neurological conditions etc.”
     Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara scoffed at Asare’s defense.
     “Medical providers are not free under the law simply to refuse their services to a person with a serious medical condition like HIV,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “Individuals with disabilities are entitled to the same medical services as everyone else, and there can be no room in the medical profession for the kind of discrimination alleged in this lawsuit.”
     Refusing treatment on the basis of HIV status violates the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, the complaint notes.
     The government seeks money damages and an injunction for two counts of discrimination. Asare has not immediately returned a call seeking comment.

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