A video showing an agitated woman demanding her son be examined by a “white doctor” at a Toronto-area walk-in clinic is sparking online outrage, as some medical groups say demands for physicians of a certain race cannot be accommodated.
In the video, which was posted online Sunday and has since been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube, the woman becomes increasingly belligerent as she repeatedly asks to see a doctor who “doesn’t have brown teeth” and “speaks English.”
As the unidentified woman repeats her demands, the video shows others in the waiting room confront her, calling her behaviour unacceptable and racist.
Peel Regional Police say they were called to a clinic in Mississauga, Ont., shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday on reports of a disturbance.
Spokesman Const. Mark Fischer says a woman was being verbally aggressive in requesting that a white doctor attend to her son.
He says the woman’s son eventually received treatment, and the case was closed with no charges laid since no one was hurt and no threats were made.
Many took to social media to decry what they described as the casual racism at play in the incident.
“Are you really going to deny your child who is sick care just because the doctor (who is a licensed professional!!!) isn’t white???” one person wrote on Twitter.
“The video of the ‘white doctor’ woman made me cry pretty hard. It made (me) happy too. I’d rather see racism in public, not hidden in the public,” another wrote.
Patients do make these types of requests occasionally, though in some areas it may more commonly be to ask for a doctor of a specific gender, said Dr. Alan Drummond, co-chair of public affairs for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.
There may be efforts to accommodate patients who would feel more comfortable with a female physician, but it’s often simply not possible, especially in small communities, he said.
Generally speaking, “if you’re sick enough to warrant emergency care or urgent care, then you’re sick enough not to be choosy about who it is you see,” he said.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada took a similar stance in a position statement a few years ago, saying that requests for a doctor of a particular gender may be accommodated if made during regular office hours.
“Race isn’t an option,” a society spokeswoman said by email.
The position statement further says that “patients can decline the care offered, but should take full responsibilities for those actions.”
The Canadian Medical Association, meanwhile, said that “racism has no place in Canada nor in our health-care system.”
“Part of Canada’s strength is our multi-cultural history and make-up,” the association’s president, Dr. Granger Avery, said in a statement.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which regulates doctors in the province, said it does not have a policy to address that situation but stressed that the Ontario Human Rights Code states all those who provide services in the province are entitled to do so free from discrimination.
It also says that under its policies, doctors may consider cutting ties with a patient whose behaviour becomes inappropriate or abusive.
The Canadian Press