Mich. hospital, nurses settle discrimination suit

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DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan hospital has settled a lawsuit that accused it of agreeing to a man’s request that no black nurses care for his newborn.

Hurley Medical Center and four nurses who sued said Friday the lawsuit was “amicably resolved.”

The Flint hospital says the conduct wasn’t consistent with hospital policies and that it “fundamentally opposes” racial discrimination.

The suit was filed by nurse Tonya Battle, who alleged a note was posted on an assignment clipboard reading, “No African American nurse to take care of baby.

She says it was later removed, but that black nurses weren’t assigned to the baby’s care.

Battle and the hospital say the father showed Battle’s supervisor a swastika tattoo.

The other three nurses recently joined the suit. A related lawsuit isn’t part of the settlement.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

It’s been called one of medicine’s “open secrets” _ allowing patients to refuse treatment by a doctor or nurse of another race.

In the latest example, a white man with a swastika tattoo insisted that black nurses not be allowed to touch his newborn. Now two black nurses are suing the hospital, claiming it bowed to his illegal demands.

The Michigan cases are among several lawsuits filed in recent years that highlight this seldom-discussed issue, which quietly persists almost 60 years after the start of the civil rights movement.

The American Medical Association’s ethics code bars doctors from refusing to treat people based on race, gender and other criteria, but there are no specific policies for handling race-based requests from patients.

“In general, I don’t think honoring prejudicial preferences … is morally justifiable” for a health care organization, said Dr. Susan Goold, a University of Michigan professor of internal medicine and public health. “That said, you can’t cure bigotry … There may be times when grudgingly acceding to a patient’s strongly held preferences is morally OK.”

Those times could include patients who have been so traumatized _ by rape or combat, for instance _ that accommodating their request would be preferable to forcing on them a caregiver whose mere presence might aggravate the situation, she said.

Tonya Battle, a veteran nurse at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, filed the first complaint against the hospital and a nursing manager, claiming a note posted on an assignment clipboard read, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” She says the note was later removed but black nurses weren’t assigned to care for the baby for about a month because of their race.

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