Saturday, February 23, 2013

Racism in the Hospital Setting

My opinion: Racism can occur anywhere, although I usually don't think about it in a medical context.  In private companies, people of minorities may only have to deal with those who work with them, who are to some extent bounded by professional ethics.  However, in a hospital, patients have their own backgrounds on ethics and never had to apply enter the hospital in the same way an employee must apply for a job.  Thus, conflict might arise more often in a hospital setting than in others.  Additionally, since the patient and their families are probably stressed out, hospitals are faced with the threat of being sued, and so they give in to the demands.  In this case, though, the hospital didn't seem to consider the possibility that the staff would sue.  Maybe they could have resolved this by forcing the family to leave the hospital, although that could have caused an even worse legal battle, especially if the baby was very ill and needed medical attention.  Should patients agree to a hospital's code of ethics in return for its services?  Do these contracts already exist, and if so, are they strong enough?  Feel free to comment.


DETROIT (AP) -- It's been called one of medicine's "open secrets" — allowing patients to refuse treatment by a doctor or nurse of another race.
In the latest example, a white man with a swastika tattoo insisted that black nurses not be allowed to touch his newborn. That led several black nurses to sue the Michigan hospital, claiming it bowed to his illegal demands, and a rapid settlement in one of their lawsuits.
The Michigan cases are among several lawsuits filed in recent years that highlight this seldom-discussed issue, which quietly persists almost 60 years after the start of the civil rights movement.
The American Medical Association's ethics code bars doctors from refusing to treat people based on race, gender and other criteria, but there are no specific policies for handling race-based requests from patients.
"In general, I don't think honoring prejudicial preferences ... is morally justifiable" for a health care organization, said Dr. Susan Goold, a University of Michigan professor of internal medicine and public health. "That said, you can't cure bigotry ... There may be times when grudgingly acceding to a patient's strongly held preferences is morally OK."
Those times could include patients who have been so traumatized — by rape or combat, for instance — that accommodating their request would be preferable to forcing on them a caregiver whose mere presence might aggravate the situation, she said.

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