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This week, a man waiting in a Mississauga clinic posted a video he took of a woman ranting about wanting to see a ‘white doctor.’ The video quickly made the rounds with people expressing shock and disbelief at the woman’s behaviour. The woman — who had brought her son to the clinic for chest pains — repeatedly asks if there is a white doctor in the building and when she is told there isn’t, goes on a racist rant about wanting to see someone who ‘speaks English.’ It’s not pleasant.

There are a few hopeful moments when witnesses of the event address the woman and call out her racism. One woman even responds, “Your child clearly has more issues with you being his mother than him needing to see a doctor. You are extremely rude and racist.” Wow. Clearly the majority of people didn’t think that was in any way acceptable. Well, that might not exactly be true.

Since the initial public response of horror and revulsion at this woman’s behaviour, doctors are coming out to let us know that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s fairly common for patients to make racist remarks to their physicians. Just as racism is still common in most parts of society, it’s also present in the medical profession.

Even if a patient is rude or racist, doctors have an obligation to treat them as long as they are not in physical danger. Because of this moral and ethical obligation, physicians often have to turn a blind eye or leave the comment or situation unaddressed.

Dr. Kulvinder Gill, president of Concerned Ontario Doctors, points out that though videos like these are shocking and disturbing, they open the door to the kinds of discussions we need to be having about racism.

“Acknowledging hate with hate is not the answer,” she told Your Morning, “We need to acknowledge that it’s happening. We need to be having these crucial conversations and I think there’s an opportunity here to start having dialogue within the medical community.”

Dr. Nadia Alam, the Ontario Medical Association’s president-elect, is calling for the College of Physicians and Surgeons to create a policy that would address these issues of racism in a more direct way.

“There’s a big concern out there of how to create an environment of safety, not just for us but for the learners who are with us,” she said, “And for the patient themself who has come in and who’s angry and upset. How do you treat them when they no longer trust you and all they see is your skin colour?”

It looks like we’ve got a lot more talking to do, Canada. But the good news is at least most of us seem to be willing to do it.