New York woman suing doctor for testing her for HIV without consent

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Reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD Oct. 04, 2012


One of the problems with sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, is that often doctors may suspect that a patient has an infection or HIV, but cannot test him or her without their express consent. In some states, a patient's written consent is required, even though such a step would never be needed to test for cancer or other diseases. Many people feel uncomfortable getting tested for STDs, which leaves many doctors in a tough situation.

Now, The New York Daily News is reporting that a woman is suing the Brooklyn doctor who tested her for HIV without her consent, even though the test was positive and likely saved her life. The woman is seeking damages for terror, confusion, embarrassment and emotional distress. While visiting Lifex Medical Care in Sheepshead Bay, a doctor suggested that she get tested for HIV since her white blood cell count was low. She told the doctor that she did not want a test, yet he ran one anyway. The test revealed positive results.

In New York, a doctor can only run an HIV test after patients receive an explanation and give their consent. Furthermore, anyone who tests positive is supposed to be referred to counseling. The doctor in this case ignored both of these stipulations, tested the women without her consent and then handed her the results without offering counseling.

According to the woman, she would have preferred to get tested by her own doctor who she feels comfortable with, in a location other than the Lifex clinic.

Regardless of where it is done, it's is important for everyone who suspects they may have HIV or is warned by a doctor that they may have the virus to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that out of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, one in five is unaware that they have the virus. 

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