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Should Hospital Patients Be Allowed To Turn Down Care From Nurses & Doctors Because Of Their Race?

Submitted by on February 25, 2013 – 12:38 pmNo Comment

There’s a new debate that’s taking place in hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country—and it involves a topic that you may not have thought about previously. Recently, a white man who was at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan asked a nursing supervisor not to allow any African-American nurses to care for his baby. And, surprisingly, the supervisor obliged and made sure that white staffers tended to the man’s baby. As a result, several black nurses who work at the hospital sued Hurley and claimed that it had allowed them to be singled out and asked not to work because of their race. And, Michigan isn’t the only state that’s seen an increase in these types of cases, as many other hospitals out there have also been forced to make a difficult decision: Go along with a patient’s request to have a certain race tend to them or their children—or go against the wishes of the patient and assign whoever happens to be available to tend to them regardless of race.

It’s admittedly a very, very slippery slope. The easy answer here is to say that hospitals should not allow intolerance under their roofs under any circumstances. But, in many cases, the patients requesting a nurse or doctor of a certain race may be enduring a lot of physical pain and/or emotional stress when they make the request. So, is that really the best time to teach someone a lesson about how the race of a nurse or doctor shouldn’t matter when it comes to receiving medical care? Do you really want to sit and try to convince, say, a rape victim or someone who just lost a limb in a car accident that they should accept whichever nurse or doctor comes to their aid? In theory, yes. But, in practice, it’s much easier for many hospitals to just bow down to the wishes of patients, which is why so many are allowing patients to turn down care from nurses and doctors of other races.

The truth is that, for years now, nurses and doctors have had to abide by a code of conduct that calls for them to provide care for everyone, regardless of race. But, there is no such policy in place when it comes to the rights of nurses and doctors. So, maybe some sort of code needs to be created. Maybe nurses and doctors need to continue to stand up and fight back against prejudice when they are a victim of it, so that their hospitals will put policies into place that assign them the same rights that patients have. Or, maybe hospitals need to step up and have their boards of directors do something to prohibit patients from picking nurses and doctors based on race. Because, what’s going on in hospitals all over the country right now just isn’t right. And, it’s quite disturbing to think that many hospitals are just sitting back and allowing it to happen.

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