The Dilemma of the Racist Patient

Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2015 Dec;44(12):E477-9.


Encounters with racist patients can be distressing, damage the physician-patient relationship, and threaten the collegial environment of the health care setting. Although policies guiding physician interactions may exist, providers may be uncomfortable and left vulnerable in racially charged interactions. When providers deal with racially intolerant patients, a courteous address of their inappropriate behavior is crucial, after which a dialogue should ensue to identify causes of potentially misplaced anger. Unsuccessful attempts at relationship salvage should be further guided by ethics teams, and in cases of a continued impasse, physicians should absolve themselves of medical duties provided that an appropriate alternative provider is available. Although racism in the health care setting can present a reasonable window to generate productive dialogue to improve race relations, a deeply entrenched and pervasive mindset can be difficult to reverse and should not impede the primary goal of providing timely patient care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Black or African American*
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Racism / trends*
  • Social Justice
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • White People*