Lawsuit: Sheriff allowed gay heart attack victim to die

The ACLU alleges a sheriff in West Virginia prevented lifesaving treatment for a gay man he falsely believed to be HIV-positive.

BY admin

March 03 2006 1:00 AM ET

A gay man from
Welch, W.Va., died of a heart attack after the police
chief there physically prevented his friend from performing
CPR because the chief falsely believed the man was
HIV-positive, the American Civil Liberties Union said
in a lawsuit filed on Thursday. The federal
discrimination suit was filed on behalf of the surviving
family members of Claude Green Jr.

"I'm heartbroken
that I have lost my son over such ignorance and
bigotry," said Helen Green, mother of Claude, who died at
the age of 43. "I can't understand how someone who is
supposed to protect the people of Welch could
physically block another human from saving my son's
life. It's always difficult for a mother to lose a child,
but to have lost my son so needlessly will be with me
for the rest of my life."

The ACLU filed
the lawsuit in the U.S. district court for the southern
district of West Virginia against the city of Welch and
Robert K. Bowman, Welch's chief of police. The lawsuit
charges that Bowman discriminated against Green by
preventing others from providing lifesaving medical care
to Green because of his sexual orientation and perceived HIV
status. The lawsuit also charges that Bowman violated
the Americans With Disabilities Act by discriminating
against someone he perceived to be HIV-positive.

"Bowman's actions
were a frightening abuse of power," said Rose Saxe, a
staff attorney with the ACLU's AIDS Project. "It's hard to
say what was more shameful: that Chief Bowman assumed Claude
Green was HIV-positive solely because he was gay, or
that Bowman was so ignorant about HIV that he felt you
couldn't safely perform CPR on an HIV-positive
person."

According to the
ACLU lawsuit, Green suffered a heart attack while
driving with a friend last summer. The friend, Billy Snead,
was performing CPR by the side of the road when Bowman
arrived and told Snead to stop because Green was
HIV-positive. When Snead didn't stop the CPR, Bowman
grabbed Snead by the shoulders and physically barred Snead
from continuing CPR at a critical point in Green's
resuscitation. Snead, who had not realized at first
that Bowman was a police officer, then obeyed his
commands.

While Green
fought to stay alive, Bowman prevented anyone else from
aiding Green until EMS workers arrived approximately 10
minutes later, the suit claims. While they were
putting Green in the ambulance, Bowman informed EMS
workers that Green was HIV-positive. Although the EMS
workers ignored Bowman's warnings and performed CPR on
Green, he passed away shortly after arriving at the
hospital. He did not have HIV. (Advocate.com)

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