The translator includes this note:
The discrimination hysteria industry in Norway has reached epic proportions. This could easily be taken from a Monty Python sketch.
The translated article:
Refused to be treated by a female doctor
A Muslim man’s request to be looked after by male doctor at the emergency room was not granted. He has now brought the matter before the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman (LDO) as religiously-motivated discrimination, and now the Ombudsman is demanding answers from the Bærum Council [municipality west of Oslo].
When the man arrived at the emergency room in Asker and Bærum one night in September, he made it clear that he wanted to be looked after by a male doctor. When he was eventually greeted by a female doctor, he refused to shake her hand or allow her to touch him, writes the local newspaper Budstikka.
The man now claims that he was discriminated against by the emergency room this evening. The visit ended with his being told to go and see his regular doctor the following day.
Brought the matter to the LDO
In a formal complaint to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman (LDO), the man claims that he was discriminated against by the emergency room on religious grounds. The LDO has now asked Bærum Council to explain the matter, which the LDO believes raises several ethical dilemmas:
“This case raises several ethical dilemmas. A public institution is obliged to provide services and make accommodations in order to ensure that a person gets the service he or she is entitled to. The question that we need to ask ourselves is how far a public institution needs to go in order to ensure that this happens, and that is what we are going to take a closer look at,” says Elisabeth Lier Haugseth, the deputy leader of the LDO.
Some of the questions that the Ombudsman has asked Bærum council to answer are:
- Why was man’s request to be looked after by a male doctor declined?
- Could the female doctor have treated the man without touching him?
- How acute was the man’s medical situation?
Haugseth is of the opinion that there is a difference between the man being refused treatment as a result of refusing to shake the doctor’s hand as opposed to the man being offered medical treatment and turning this offer down.
According to Haugseth the LDO has only minimal experience with such types of cases. She mentions that in 2006 some male airline passengers refused to show their passports to a female immigration officer. As a result the female immigration officer was replaced by a male colleague. Following the incident the woman brought the matter to the LDO, and in that particular case the Ombudsman concluded that provisions had been taken too far and ruled that the woman had been discriminated against based on her gender.
Haugseth also refers to a case this summer where a hospital patient refused to be treated by nurses wearing hijabs [Budstikka refers to hijab as ‘skaut’ — traditional Norwegian headgear — which I believe is something completely different — translator]. Haugseth has previously stated that a patient cannot opt out of treatment by healthcare professionals wearing hijabs, homosexuals or individuals who have immigrant backgrounds.
“There is a limit to how much accommodation one can demand. Among other things, it depends on whether this accommodation leads to discrimination against the healthcare personnel. As employees, healthcare personnel also have the right to be protected against discrimination,” says Haugseth to Budstikka.
The Muslim man was not discriminated against by the emergency services based on religious believes, says Gro Steigum, the head of services in Bærum.
According to Steigum, the emergency services in Asker and Bærum try to accommodate the wishes of the patients as far as this is possible. But on that particular night in September there was only one doctor on duty and it just happened to be a woman, and consequently the man’s request to be looked after by a male doctor could not be granted.
“We don’t believe that this is a case of discrimination. The man made it clear that he refused physical contact with women as a matter of principle. He said nothing about it being based on religious beliefs,” says Steigum to Budstikka.
“But would one expect that an educated physician would understand that religion was the reason behind the man’s refusal?”
“The doctor did not discuss the matter with the patient. She quickly decided that the man’s condition didn’t warrant immediate emergency medical care. She concluded that the patient could go and see his regular doctor the following day,” says Steigum.
As the leader of services, Steigum has the ultimate responsibility for the local emergency room. However, she cannot recollect that patients have refused physical contact at the emergency room on previous occasions.
“The biggest dilemmas arise in acute emergency situations. In the emergency room, personnel with different qualifications work together as a team and all issues are resolved on the basis of competence. We have to provide the necessary treatment immediately if it is a life-threatening situation. In such case we cannot always accommodate special the patients’ wishes,” says Steigum.
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