Are all patients who come to the emergency room treated the same way? Six years after the death of Naomie Musenga, a young woman died in December 2017 after being mocked by a Samu operator – just indictment for “failure to assist a person in danger” – a study revives the debate. According to this study, published in December in theEuropean Journal of Emergency Medicineand relayed by Free Middaywomen and black people are taken less seriously than men and white people by emergency room personnel.
This study was carried out last summer among 1,563 people working in emergency services in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Monaco. The authors sought to assess the weight of sexist and ethnic prejudices in the early management of acute coronary syndrome – which is characterized according to Health Insurance by very severe pain in the chest, with a feeling of oppression.
They distributed a questionnaire to the respondents. They were asked to set the priority level for the treatment of fictitious patients, of different genders and ethnic origins, based on a photo and the description of a clinical case.
The authors concluded that “viewing simulated patients with different characteristics changed the prioritization decision.” In other words, for similar cases, the priority level was not the same depending on the patient’s characteristics. In this case, men benefited from higher priority than women; and the cases of white patients were considered higher priority than those of black patients.
In France, an investigation carried out in 2018, a few months after the death of Naomie Musenga, had already revealed discrimination against emergency patients. Led by several associations, it highlighted a “Mediterranean syndrome widely distributed in the medical profession”. A theory according to which people of North African origin have a tendency to exaggerate their pain, which means they are taken less seriously when they come to the emergency room.
A “fantasy”, was answered at the time at the Parisian François Braun, then president of Samu-Urgences France. “In medical regulation, we take into account the personality of the caller. The interrogation varies depending on whether he is talkative, withdrawn… But there is no link with ethnicity,” he assured.