Really, You Don’t Want To Know!? Woman Sues Doctor For Informing Her Of Positive HIV Status

October 3, 2012  |  



You would think that if you were living with HIV, you would certainly want to know that very important health news. But for a 31 year old Harlem woman, this was not the case. When it came to her HIV status, home girl was like Mario Winans, she didn’t want to know and is suing the doctor who administered the test and told her. The Harlem woman, who filed her lawsuit under the alias Jane Doe, had recently undergone gastric bypass surgery but she was not healing properly. Her nutritionist noticed that she had a B12 deficiency and recommended that she see Brooklyn doctor, Pavel Yutsis.

Dr. Yutsis also noticed that the woman had a shortage of white blood cells so he asked her if he could administer an HIV test. Jane Doe declined.

Yutsis came back a second time, telling the mystery woman that he needed more blood. Though he never asked her to sign a consent form to be tested for HIV, that’s what he used her blood for and came back and told the woman she was HIV positive.

Jane Doe told that her body went numb when she learned of the results: “I was not good after that. I was tricked with something I had no clue about.”

New York public health law requires that the patient provide written consent for a doctor to administer an HIV test. This courtesy wasn’t extended to Doe. And to add insult to injury she claims that other staff members in the office were discussing her HIV results.

Her attorney argues that while there is value in knowing one’s HIV status, Doe had her reasons for not wanting to find out and her rights deserved to be protected. Ethically others claim that Dr. Yutsis’ decision to test her without her knowledge or consent is an example of something called physician paternalism, in which the idea that the “doctor knows best” trumps the patient’s rights or desires.

Though Jane Doe was abstract when describing her current health condition, claiming that she’s “working on things,” she did take time to mention that because of her gastric bypass surgery she’s “slim, trim and sexi.” She continued by saying, “If I turn sideways, I’ll be marked absent.”


Legally, Ms. Jane Doe certainly has a case she’ll most likely win. But morally, I have to wonder why she didn’t want the HIV test. You think she might have had an inkling that she was already positive? If you consider her response to the health questions, the fact that she completely skipped questions about her health now that she knows she has HIV, to speak about her new thin body makes me believe that her priorities are a bit out of whack and that perhaps she didn’t want to deal with a positive HIV diagnosis because it would put a serious wrench in the plans she had for her new body.

That being said, I do wish her the best and hope she’s able to acknowledge her condition so she can start focusing on getting well.

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  • DatsLife

    She probably refused the test because she is aware of someone in her present or past has HIV. If the doctor can prove this then he will win the case. Who denies an AID test? She surely wasn’t a Jehovah. I thought when you have major surgery the doctors test for HIV.

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  • Ms.Hoy

    Another view on this- She may have skipped the questions about HIV on a questionaire so that she wouldnt become ineligible from having the surgery. Then continued her charade to the next doctor. Im not saying she set up doctor #2, but she definitely knew her rights. Anyway you look at it, she seems to be fucked up in the head. She needs tons of help. Cheers to the doctor who was willing to bend some rules to #DoTheRightThing

  • I’m appalled. Truly. What good is being ‘slim,trim and sexi’ if you’re positive? I also assume that she knew she was possibly positive and didn’t want to know. SMH

  • Miss

    Wait, so she is more concerned about her exterior than her interior.. WTH, is wrong with ppl?
    This is a great article and it came up at a good time in my life and really need others opinion.
    So, I have been dating this guy, and the first time we made out he wanted to have sex. In the moment I noticed that he proceeded to try me w/o a condom and it freaked me the hell out. I stopped him immediately. Thats was absolutely not ok with me. I did continue to see him but pumped the brakes on the possibility of sex. I was speaking with him a few days a go and he mentioned being sick I brought up the fact that he was sick a few weeks ago and that he needed to start taking vitamins. He asked and I said a multivitamin would be good until you get your annual then you can inquire with your doc. He says to me he just had a physical and his dr informed him he had a low white blood cell count and he will be prone to sickness. Now I am not a Dr but what Dr informs a pt of that health issue and not ask him to have firther testing done. In addition to his eagerness to have unprotected sex with a woman he doesn’t know. Am I tripping. And no we never had unprotected sex

    • SunshineBlossom

      No girl, you are definitely not tripping. One of my favorite songs is by Marsha Ambrosius… Late Nights and Early Mornings, you have to see that video, that pretty much shows that shotgun bullet you dodged. And good job for standing up for yourself and dismissing him physically.

  • butrphly

    I think she already knew. That is just a weird reaction. Sue the doctor who is trying to inform you of your health status? That is like me getting a physical and getting blood work, my doc tells me I am pregnant. So I decide to sue my doc for telling me I am pregnant. That is just ignorant.

    • Kells

      Right thats just crazy…

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  • beevb

    Many states are decriminalizing HIV exposure, because people are declining testing to prevent being charged with a crime for knowingly passing on the virus. I fully believe this woman was aware of her status and did not want the responsibility for protecting others (with her new body). While I agree that the physician should abide by the permission to test policy, the greater public good should prevail. We need to revisit HIV/ Medical/ Legal policy to adapt to the changing moral climate in our country today. Self preservation rules.

  • Tamz

    I have a feeling she already knew deep down inside and the confirmation just made the nightmare real. Smh.

  • Kimmy

    I work in HIV prevention and testing and the number of people (especially Black people) who do not want to know their status is large. People have told me to my face that they rather die from AIDS than live with HIV. Further, living with HIV is difficult because that means changing sexual behaviors (it’s hard to change how you do something that makes you feel good for years) and making potential partners aware of their positive status. Disclosure comes with the risk of rejection by partners, family, and friends because there is still a negative stigma, especially with the Black community, associated with HIV. Let’s be honest, regardless of the situation, no one wants to be rejected by those closest to them. Not to mention those living with HIV spreading it to others on purpose because they refused to take the responsibility of not protecting themselves from it in the first place therefore everyone must suffer like they do. Sexual health is a great responsibility both physically and mentally; if people cannot deal with the possible negative consequences of unprotected sex, they shouldn’t have sex at all…but that is wishful thinking on my part.
    I hope this woman loses her lawsuit because all the doctor did was due diligence. Depending on the progression of her HIV, he might have even saved her life. In my opinion, she’s just upset that she cannot have unprotected sex with whoever she wants to in her “new body” and if that’s the case, she got her gastric bypass surgery for the wrong reasons anyway.

    • me

      “if people cannot deal with the possible negative consequences of unprotected sex, they shouldn’t have sex at all”

      you SAID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Thanks for the insightful comment. whats up with promiscuous ppl anyway? i cant imagine soul connecting with every dude i know

  • Candacey Doris

    Yes, she’ll probably win the case. But this seems fish to me. She probably knew and was happily living in denial. Who knows if she passed it to anyone? I think in cases of suspected AIDS and HIV the need for consent to test should be waved.

  • lilly

    Ummm….why did a Kim kardashian article get over 60 comments and an article about. HIV get less than 20? SMH..#getyourliferight

  • Eggy

    As a physician, I have to absolutely call to task that doctor’s thought process. I am not aware of NY state law, but if the patient declined testing, the most I can do is tell her my concerns and make myself available to her in the future. His actions were wrong, plain and simple.

    • MLS2698

      Maybe they have physician paternalism because New York is so populated and they can’t afford for people to be in denial about a deadly disease.

      • rzakia

        physician paternalism is not a law, it more describes the relationship doctors and patients share. it’s the idea that the physican-patient relationship is a paternalistic, beneficent relationship; that is, the physician is expected to do what is medically best for the patient. so it’s not a law, its a practice so to speak.

  • lalatarea

    This woman disgusts me but the doctor paternalism thing scares me even more. I don’t think a physician should have the right to dismiss my rights or desires because he “knows what’s best”, that seeks like a very slippery slope.

    • SMHgurl24

      Though I agree, I highly doubt doctors use that practice as a way of over powering your rights because they think they can. I think its more along the lines where they use it when other people’s lives are brought into the equation because of some selfish monster’s attitude. Seeing how she thinks GB surgery is the easy way to get in shape, I think this would warrent serious intervention by the doctors.

  • Kitsy

    She knew she had it before he told her. The fact that she was not recovering well from her surgery and yet refused a test that may have revealed the cause indicates that she suspected her status would be positive and just didn’t want the test confirm what she already knew.

    Now the doctor was wrong for administering the test without her permission (there is a reason why the law mandates that you have to sign a consent form), but I’m not going to argue about whether or not she should have brought this lawsuit.

    What concerns me is that this woman is very much like a lot of people – they are ill, or they are living a lifestyle that they know puts them at risk, yet they refuse to get tested. They just don’t want to know and believe that not knowing will make it go away. This line of thinking is the reason why HIV is an epidemic in our community.

    • Deliah

      I agree with you 100%. I think that probably one of the bigger reasons why HIV/AIDS is running rampant in the black community isn’t because people don’t know how to take care of themselves, it isn’t because we don’t have access to condoms, it isn’t because men are on the down low, its because like you said people are living a lifestyle they KNOW puts them at risk and they refuse to get tested. I think she believed if she didn’t REALLY know she could continue to be in denial. Denial and Rationalization are very powerful things. The doctor did break the law and the lady will win but that doctor has also informed this woman of her status so she can begin a medication regimen right away before the virus has a chance to wreak serious havoc on her body. HIV is more manageable then ever before but denial still a chronic threat to the Black community. She better hope she doesn’t end up dead like that lady who told her partner, after unprotected sex, that she had HIV and he stabbed her to death.

    • nray955

      I agree with your comments. Some individuals suspect they’re HIV positive and some already know but the issue of stigma and discrimination keeps individuals from not wanting to know or to keeping their known HIV positive status a secret.

      I manage an HIV testing program in a hospital emergency room and I see cases like this all the time. Patients come in to be treated for some strange condition or illness; however, during the course of their time in the emergency doctors and nurses have to ask a lot of direct questions in order to get patients to disclose if they are HIV positive.

      We known about HIV for over 20 years and with all the advancements in treatment, services and prevention methods, people with HIV still come across stigma and are still discriminated, regardless if they are doing what they need to manage their condition or if they refuse to know.

  • …because if you know, it’s premeditated…

  • JustPassingBy

    You can reject a HIV test? nope nope, spreading HIV its criminal, and she knew, and HE knew, she should be the one getting judged here. If you don’t want to know your cancer results or your diabetes results, ok your problem, but it shouldn’t be allowed with HIV.

    • MLS2698

      Yes, you can decline. But apparently there is another law put in place to protect the public and the patient called physician paternalism. Thank goodness.

  • Naw she knew, she just didn’t want anyone else to know and know she knew. Come on now, who refuses an HIV test unless they trying to hide it? I would happily throw my arm out there and say get all the blood you need.

  • Hello_Kitty81

    I would have thanked him for telling me I have HIV instead of me walking around not knowing that I have the monster and unknowingly spreading it to others.

  • I hope this case goes to the highest court and it becomes law that HIV tests are apart of physicals

  • JustSaying


  • anonymous

    People like her are the reason HIV rates are rising. At least now she can’t claim that she didn’t know when she passes it on!

    • MLS2698

      And she can still be marked absent when she dies from AIDS, but she does not have to take other people down with her.