White patients 'refusing to be treated by Asian American doctor'

Some opt for an intern, others simply leave the hospital 

White supremacist patients refuse treatment' by Asian-American doctor

An Asian-American physician has told how some white patients refuse to be treated by her, elect to be seen by a white intern or else simply leave the hospital, in an insight into the prejudice many doctors of colour continue to confront.

Writing in the aftermath of the neo-Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville, Esther Choo, a doctor at Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University with 15 years experience, said there were a lot of "white nationalists" in her state. A few times a year, she said, a patient in the emergency room would refuse to be seen by her because of her race.

In a tweet thread that was read and shared by many thousands of people, she said: “The conversation usually goes like this. Me: ‘I understand your viewpoint. I trained at elite institutions and have been practising for 15 years. You are welcome to refuse care under my hands, but I feel confident that I am the most qualified to care for you. Especially since the alternative is an intern’.”

She added: “And they invariably pick the intern, as long as they are white. Or they leave.”

Ms Choo’s comments came as America has again been forced to deal with the ongoing reality of racism and bigotry after the largest gathering in years of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists was held in the Virginia college town.

They were met by scores of anti-fascist protesters and the clashes left up to 20 people a hurt. A young woman, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed after a young man allegedly drove his car into a group of people. The 20-year-old, said to have been an admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with murder.

The cast of Detroit discuss Charlottesville violence

“I used to cycle through disbelief, shame, anger. Now I just show compassion and move on,” wrote Ms Choo.

She added: “You know what gives me hope? A few get uncomfortable and apologise in the same breath they refuse to let me treat them. You see, it’s a hell of a hard thing to maintain that level of hate face-to-face.”

Speaking subsequently on CNN, Ms Choo said she had been told by colleagues that her experience was far from unique.

“What I’m hearing from my colleagues is that this is a daily occurrence for many of them, at least experiences of prejudice. The patient who outright refuses care is less common, but I definitely heard from a lot of people this week that they have also had that exact same experience,” she said.

Patient prejudice towards doctors is now so common many medical professionals “consider it a routine part of our jobs”, she added.

“Maybe it’s that they're from another country or because of their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation or their gender. But I’m hearing it from a lot of physicians that this is not unusual,” she said.

Asked if she had been able to change a patient’s mind, she said it was very rare.

“A few times I’ve been able to talk patients into receiving care from me. Or we can negotiate some sort of compromise where they will be seen by maybe a resident physician who is white, and I’m still guiding care, but I don’t actually enter the room,” she said.

“Usually you cannot. I’ve found in my experience that you cannot talk people out of their ideology.”

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