When a patient is a bigot, what can a doctor do?

The video is appalling in its brazenness: a woman in the Canadian city of Mississauga demanding, loudly and repeatedly, that her son receive medical treatment only from a white pediatrician.

“Can I see a doctor, please, that’s white?” she says in the now-viral video. “That doesn’t have brown teeth, that speaks English?”

Many viewers were shocked and outraged by the video, but for doctors and nurses all over North America, these bigoted demands are familiar and getting more frequent. Many can recount instances in which patients have used derogatory language and slurs or, as in this case, refused medical care outright based on a physician’s racial or ethnic background.

Dr. Lachelle Dawn Weeks is a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who, as chair of the hospital’s social justice committee, is well acquainted with this problem.

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