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Deadly Ignorance

Fear of HIV Transmission Gets in the Way of CPR

By

Updated January 25, 2014

On June 21, 2005, Claude Green apparently suffered sudden cardiac arrest while driving a pickup truck near his home in Welch, West Virginia. Green's friend, Billy Snead, was a passenger in the truck. Snead was able to grab the wheel after Green lost consciousness and guide the truck to a stop. Snead then got out of the truck, ran around the driver's side, and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Green.

Welch Police Chief Robert Bowman happened upon the scene of the cardiac arrest as Snead was performing chest compressions on Green. Bowman called for an ambulance and ordered Snead to stop helping Green, despite evidence that Snead's efforts were working. Snead remembers that Green had begun breathing shallowly before Bowman ordered him to stop CPR.

Bowman announced to Snead that Green had HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Bowman was familiar with Green and apparently thought the victim was gay. Presumably, Green's sexual orientation was the only reason Bowman thought he had HIV. There was no other evidence to suggest to Bowman that Green was HIV positive - which Green was not.

Snead initially ignored Bowman's order to stop CPR, but was then physically restrained by Bowman. Once another police officer arrived on the scene, Bowman ordered Snead escorted away from the pickup truck for questioning. Green allegedly went without medical treatment for nearly 8 minutes until emergency medical services (EMS) arrived.

Chief Bowman told the EMS crew that Green was HIV positive and crew members passed the information along to the hospital. Despite Green's supposed HIV status, the EMS crew and the hospital continued - correctly - their attempts to resuscitate Green. Green did not respond and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Page 2 looks at Chief Bowman's logic. Was he correct in refusing to allow a lay rescuer to help a man he believed was HIV positive?

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