Tonya Battles a veteran African American nurse recently sued Hurley Medical Center, a Flint, Michigan hospital where she worked for racial discrimination. A white racist father instructed her supervisor that he did not want any African American’s caring for his sick baby. The hospital complied and even posted a note on the child’s chart reinforcing the order. What the cuss? Most hospitals pride themselves on diversity and to comply with such a request does make one wonder if this is 1913 or 2013. On the other hand, was Mrs. Battles hurt? Did she lose any hours? Was she docked any pay? No. But the appalling request was granted, opening up the hospital to exposure and they got sued. Mrs. Battles settled her lawsuit the terms of which are not disclosed; but now another nurse Carlotta Armstrong has come forward to sue on similar grounds as this tall order was complied with for about a month causing a firestorm and protests outside the hospital.
That story reminded me of the surgeon in Nashville, Tn who in 1999 obliged the request of a racist to make sure no black men would be in attendance at his wife’s surgery as he did not want a black man to see his wife naked. Here is an excerpt of the story entitled Social Malpractice as reported in Nashville Scene Magazine.
A St. Thomas Hospital physician who acquiesced to a request that he keep a black hospital employee from entering an operating room during surgery has created a firestorm of controversy at the Catholic hospital.
The physician in question is Dr. Michael R. Petracek, a nationally known heart surgeon—perhaps the best-known heart specialist at St. Thomas. The hospital itself is consistently rated one of the finest heart specialist hospitals in the nation.
For his part in the Oct. 9 incident, Petracek, who is described by other doctors as “brilliant” and “meticulous,” said he had made a bad mistake, one he wishes he had never made. “I made a very bad error in judgment,” he told the Scene. Petracek has not been disciplined by the hospital.
This is what is known about the situation, as has been told to the Scene by Petracek himself, numerous sources at the hospital, and others in the Nashville medical community:
Earlier this fall, a young woman and her husband walked into Petracek’s office at Cardiovascular Surgery Associates, which is located at St. Thomas. The woman had obvious heart problems and needed surgery. During that visit, the woman’s husband insisted that no African American males be present during her operation. (The identity of the patient, and her husband, have been kept private by both Petracek and the hospital, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.)
Petracek says he distinctly recalls from that first visit that the wife was taking directions from her strong-minded, apparently racist, spouse. The husband was simply adamant, Petracek remembers, that no black man see his wife naked. Petracek said he would agree to do his best to fulfill the man’s request, and he set in motion plans for the surgery.
On Oct. 9, the woman arrived at St. Thomas for surgery. And, as fate would have it, a male, African American technician was assigned to Petracek’s operating room. The African American was the perfusionist, a pump specialist who works under the anesthesiologist. After a quiet word from Petracek, however, the black technician left the surgery and went to work elsewhere. Another technician replaced him. Rest of the story.
When asked about this case, Medical Staff Coordinator Stella Parker of Colorado University Hospital stated: “The surgeon in my opinion should have been brought before the “ethics committee” simply because he violated the so called no discrimination rule. I do understand that the patient comes first but I applaud the doctors at Baptist Hospital.” She brings up a good point. Do people have a right to say who they want and do not want caring for their children? They actually do, but I suggest going to a hospital where a black nurse caring for your child would most likely not be an issue. But as black and other minorities can be found anywhere in America, the request is unreasonable. Unlike the technician in Nashville who let it go, the nurses in Flint were not having it. We would be naive to think that these types of requests do not happen in everyday life. People may have developed strategies to comply with racists requests, however, does an employer have a right to request a temp agency not to seend a black employee? I have seen little old white women request no black beauticians do their hair in a beauty school. Do people request employment agencies not send black nannies to care for their children? Of course they do. Ironically, African American people did all of these things without options to refuse. Do you in BBWland think this case was worthy of a lawsuit?