Incident has raised ire of health professionals and was quickly settled out of court
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/01/2013 -- Medicine's 'open secret' is now in the limelight, as allowing a patient to refuse treatment from a doctor or nurse is getting some unfortunate headlines.
The problem with the 'open secret' is that a patient may refuse service based upon race, and that fact was made all-too-clear when a white man insisted that a black nurse not be allowed to touch his child. That lead to several black nurses to sue the Michigan hospital, claiming it bowed to illegal demands by the man. A settlement was reached almost instantly in one of their lawsuits.
The Michigan state case is amongst several lawsuits filed within recent years, made all the more prominent by the fact that the man who refused service dawned a large swastika tattoo on the side of his skull. The large scale of this issue is now bringing the whole discussion to the forefront, as the unspoken rule quietly persisted for over 60 years after the civil rights movement.
The American Medical Association's ethics code does not allow for doctors or nursing practitioners to refuse servicing in-need individuals based upon any criteria; however, there is no policy for handling race-based requests from patients.
"In general, I don't think honoring prejudicial preferences ... is morally justifiable" for a healthcare 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."
The unspoken rule does have positive and empathetic roots, as those who may have been raped or beaten by men can refuse service from a male doctor in the already traumatic situation. This was put into place simply because it can exacerbate the tension of the situation.
The particular case has been settled, and the hospital officials released a statement saying that the incident was "triggered by conduct which is not consistent with Hurley's policies" and that it "fundamentally opposes racial discrimination.
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