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Black nurse sues after hospital bans her from caring for Neo-Nazi's baby
February 18, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
How much say should patients have in what doctor or nurse provides medical care for him or for his child?
Tonya Battle, a black neonatal nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., is suing the hospital because she was banned from caring for a baby at the father's request.
According to the New York Daily News, the father, apparently a Neo-Nazi, allegedly told Battle's supervisor that he "didn't want any African Americans caring for his baby" and then rolled up his sleeve to show her a Swastika tattoo. The supervisor then held a meeting to inform staff of the father's wishes and a note was pinned on the baby's isolette saying "No African American nurse to take care of baby." During the month the child was in the neonatal unit, no black nurses were allowed to tend to the baby, according to Battle's lawsuit. Battle's lawsuit alleges discrimination by her employer.
The father's attitude is despicable, but federal law also does allow him to choose his child's health care provider. All of us exercise patient choice whenever we choose a new doctor or nurse and the choice does not always come down to how competent the doctor is at his or her job. Sometimes it may be made for reasons that sound prejudiced and are unfair to a particular health care provider.
Maybe a patient chooses a particular doctor because she wants to see another woman, even if the male doctors on staff are equally good. Or maybe a patient has said no to a particular doctor because he speaks English with a heavy accent or has a foreign name and the patient feels more comfortable seeing a doctor from his own country, someone who shares his background. Occasionally a patient simply doesn't like a doctor or nurse or his bedside manner and tells the supervisor, "Find me someone else." If there is another doctor or nurse available, the hospital supervisor would probably reassign the patient's care to someone else, as seems to have happened here. Does the Neo-Nazi father have any less right to exercise patient choice because his personal prejudices appear so irrational and hateful to the majority of the world?
Battle thinks allowing the Neo-Nazi father patient choice because of his prejudice violated her rights. Is she right? Should the hospital supervisor have told the parents they would have to seek care for their child at another hospital if they didn't want black nurses treating her?
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