Is institutional racism happening in our hospitals?

In a personal view published on bmj.com today, a medical director reflects on a case in which a hospital accepted the choice of the parents of a patient, who wanted only white doctors to treat their child.

Dr Nadeem Moghal, from George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire, draws on the Macpherson report (the which took place following Stephen Laurence's murder) defining institutional racism as "the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ".

He says this report is "relevant to every organisation, private and public" yet this was not enough in a case which happened in a former workplace where parents of a child patient "refused to have care delivered by black or other minority ethnic doctors". The clinical director at the hospital concluded that the parents' choice "would be enabled". The arrangement continued for more than a year.

However, following a difficult process the were told that "care would be provided by staff regardless of their ethnicity" and the family complied.

Dr Moghal asks what we can conclude from this case. He says that there are limits to patient choice and that "when racists are confronted they may ultimately relent".

He says that any organisation may find it "hard to accept" that it had behaved in an institutionally racist way but that Macpherson's definition allows understanding and the strengthening of institutions' policies.

Dr Moghal concludes that although it was a difficult journey, the "right outcome was eventually reached" and that the key lesson is "immediately confronting and standing up to racists".

More information: www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.g265

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Time to die,' German clock told hospital patient

Dec 13, 2013

Doctors at a British hospital were startled when an upset patient told them that the clock in his ward had announced his time was up, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Can YouTube save your life?

4 hours ago

Only a handful of CPR and basic life support (BLS) videos available on YouTube provide instructions which are consistent with recent health guidelines, according to a new study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the jo ...

Doctors frequently experience ethical dilemmas

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For physicians trying to balance various financial and time pressures, ethical dilemmas are common, according to an article published Aug. 7 in Medical Economics.

AMGA: Physician turnover still high in 2013

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For the second year running, physician turnover remains at the highest rate since 2005, according to a report published by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

Obese or overweight teens more likely to become smokers

6 hours ago

A study examining whether overweight or obese teens are at higher risk for substance abuse finds both good and bad news: weight status has no correlation with alcohol or marijuana use but is linked to regular ...

Taking preventive health care into community spaces

7 hours ago

A church. A city park. An office. These are not the typical settings for a medical checkup. But a new nationwide study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that providing health services in ...

User comments