Physicians Who Experience Patient Prejudice Lack Resources

Tara Haelle


October 18, 2017

Twice while working as an emergency medicine resident, Aasim Padela, MD, MSc, had a patient tell him that they didn't want to be "taken care of by a terrorist." Dr Padela, an associate professor of emergency medicine, bioethicist, and director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago, is Muslim.

Jay Bhatt, DO, MPH, MPA, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association, was caring for a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis in the ICU when the patient told him, "Go back to India. I don't want to see you."

Emily Whitgob, MD, a postdoctoral medical fellow in pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, found herself with a room of clinicians in tears the morning after one of her interns had been told by a Palestinian patient that he did not want to see any Jewish doctors. (He did ultimately receive care from a Jewish physician.)

And these anecdotes are not isolated incidents. A survey conducted by Medscape and WebMD in partnership with STAT found that 59% of doctors have experienced bias from patients. In addition, nearly half (47%) of the 822 doctors surveyed had a patient request a different clinician because of that provider's personal characteristics. Yet, only about a quarter (24%) of surveyed physicians documented the incident in the patient's chart, and about 1 in 10 reported it to an administrative authority.

It seems that the medical field has few resources for helping physicians deal with these situations. In fact, 24% of responding physicians said their organization lacks a formal process to initiate when patients discriminate against providers, and 60% did not know if their institutions had one. Similarly, nearly half (49%) of the physicians said their organization did not offer training for managing patient bias, and over a third (36%) weren't sure.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.