Is this racist?

An American-born doctor of Indian parentage, Farah Khan, calls the incidents she recalls below "racist".  But are they?  Could they simply be cautious?  I would suspect that underlying the request not to be treated by an Indian doctor is a realistic fear that the Indian doctor will be incompetent.

In Britain, overseas-trained doctors, mostly from the Indian sub-continent, have four times the rate of adverse findings made against them by medical authorities compared to British-trained doctors. So Indian doctors in Britain definitely are more perilous.  The lower training standards in their home country and their different culture do provably make them less safe with patients.

But of course doctors who get their training in a Western country should be OK regardless of their ancestry.

Even there, however, there may be a problem due to language ability.  An Indian-born person may have an American medical degree but make mistakes through not understanding English well.  In England, for instance, a patient might tell a doctor or a nurse that they want to "spend a penny".  What do we make of that?  You may have to be English born to know that the patient needs to pee.

And then there is the problem of affirmative action.  Africans tend to be passed through the educational system regardless of their attainments.  For that reason even some Africans refuse to be seen by an African doctor.  They are wise to do so in some instances.

So the Dr. below has a just complaint but the patient may simply be overly cautious, not racist.  If Dr. Khan had explained to the "problem" patient that both her birth and her training had been in America, I think the problem would have vanished -- JR

I remember early in my residency, a patient specifically requested that no “foreigners” take care of her. This request was made in passing, one time, to her primary doctor, who happened to be white. It never came up again while she was in the hospital, so nothing was ever really done about it.

Fast forward a year or so later in my residency when a patient’s family explicitly requested, well, actually demanded, that no Indian doctors directly care for their mother. This was a little problematic, from a medical and technical aspect, given that the majority of her primary team of doctors was, in fact, some variety of Indian.

As you can imagine, this situation was also ethically, morally, and personally problematic. I wish I could say that this situation was handled well and all misunderstandings were cleared—but the racism and disrespect of this request were brushed away, and the medical team was told by the powers that be to handle the situation with sensitivity. Excuse me, what?


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