Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Dealing fairly with racist patients

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 19 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6575
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}
    Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielSokol9

Clinicians should be able to exercise judgment

Racism is an odious human trait. It is also a major problem in a healthcare system in which 19% of NHS staff are from a black and minority ethnic background.1 A Pulse survey of GPs in 2018 found that 75% of GPs from such a background had experienced racism from patients.2 Hospital staff too are faced with outward displays of racism, from name calling to requests for a clinician of a particular ethnicity, prompting a message from the health and social care secretary for England earlier this month that racist abuse would not be tolerated.34 Racist attacks against NHS staff are also on the rise.4

It is against this lamentable background …

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