Patient Rights or Unlawful Discrimination?

Patient Rights or Unlawful Discrimination?

It may be hard to image, but racial and religious discrimination is not only allowed, but openly practiced in many hospitals across the country. Believe it or not, though not a publicized policy, allowing racial and religious discrimination against staff by patients has become more of a "hospital-wide directive" in many facilities. Amazingly, all of this discrimination is justified s "patient rights."

Patients refusing care from African American nurses

It's hard to fathom a note on a patient's chart that reads: "No African American nurses." But it happens. Hospitals defend this discrimination by saying it is necessary to properly care for patients and to protect patient rights. One Florida nurse who was removed from caring for a particular patient, simply because she was African American, was told by her hospital employer that the action was taken to protect the patient's rights. When the nurse asked, "what about my rights?" She was pretty much told, the patient's rights came first.

Lawsuits are being filed more often against hospital employers

The African American nurse, Syrenthia Dysart, sued Palms of Pasadena Hospital of St. Petersburg, claiming that there was an "open secret" directive allowing this type of discrimination. A similar case was settled in Michigan after hospital officials apologized and pledged to end the discrimination.

Patient's rights are not superior to employee rights

Although it is true patients have certain rights, like refusing medical care, the hospital employees also have rights. The reality is, the hospital is under no obligation to accommodate a discriminatory request from a patient. The hospital administration is well within its rights to advise the patient that it is unable to accommodate the request and arrange to have the patient transferred to another facility, if possible. However, the hospitals are often compelled to comply with a patient's wishes for financial reasons.

How prevalent is this problem in the health care field?

A nationwide survey was conducted by the University of Chicago of 127 doctors to see how often this occurs. At least 20 percent reported having experienced race or religious related requests or demands from patients. Another study attempted to provide justification for these requests, reporting that when a patient and physician were of the same race, the visits were on average more than two minutes longer and the patient was more satisfied with the care.

How is discrimination defined under the law?

Discrimination refers to a situation where an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably because of their race, religious beliefs or other protected characteristics. The federal anti-discrimination laws forbid discrimination in employment. This includes taking actions such as hiring, firing, pay raises, job assignments, promotions, layoffs or reductions in force, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment, because of someone's race.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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