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Discriminatory Demands by Patients

Most of us working in health care are concerned—perhaps even appalled—when patients make demands for doctors or nurses or other caregivers that accord with their bigoted sentiments. Even though there may be some reasons to believe that matching certain characteristics of doctors with those of their patients (whether the latter ask for them or not) may produce both more patient satisfaction and even some health benefits, how does one tease apart or distinguish requests that are potentially beneficial from those we find abhorrent? What facts might make it acceptable for an African American patient to request an African American doctor or a Chinese Mandarin-speaking patient to request a physician who is fluent in Mandarin and is also of Chinese ethnicity? At the same time, why do we recoil or find it objectionable that the father of the baby under Tonya Battle’s care in Michigan might want a nurse caring for his child with whom he identifies ethnically, or racially or religiously, or based on any other superficial trait(s) that we use to characterize people?


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