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Lawsuit: Sheriff
allowed gay heart attack victim to die

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.

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. (

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