Mass General Brigham Speech Code Includes Blacklist on Care

by Greg Piper


A wealthy Massachusetts healthcare system that went on a controversial advertising spree to justify its encroachment on cheaper hospitals is now sending patients a different message: Watch your language.

“Words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile, or harassing are not welcome” at Mass General Brigham (MGB), according to a “Patient Code of Conduct” imposed this fall after a year of development.

The October 6 video for the update, featuring Senior Medical Director for Health Equity Allison Bryant, says it applies to further constituencies: “Patient, Family, Visitor, and Research Participant Code of Conduct.”

The code covers not only “physical or verbal threats and assaults” and “sexual or vulgar words or actions,” but also “offensive comments about others’ race, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal traits” or refusal to see staff based on those traits. It frowns on “unwelcome words or actions” as well.

While patients can give their side when accused of violating the code, MGB warns that it may ask them to “make other plans for their care” in response to some violations. They might also be banned from “future non-emergency care … though we expect this to be rare.”

MGB emphasizes that “many healthcare systems across the country have similar codes of conduct” but didn’t cite any. The code gives no minimum number of violations before a patient would be kicked out or banned from future non-emergency care.

An advocacy group that fights “woke activists” in medicine warned this month that the code’s failure to define its terms or explain who decides violations raises the likelihood that MGB will “kick non-woke patients to the curb.”

Failure to use preferred pronouns could constitute “harassment,” disputing the existence of systemic racism could be deemed “racist,” and favoring equal access to care over equity could be labeled “discriminatory,” according to Do No Harm.

The group was cofounded by Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean of instruction in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and now retired, who was slurred as a racist in medical publisher STAT by Harvard Medical School instructor Eric Gottlieb last month.

Do No Harm noted that one of MGB’s founding members and Harvard Med’s training hospital, Brigham and Women’s, launched a pilot last year that explicitly granted “preferential care based on race” to redress past wrongs, even while acknowledging it might be illegal.

A spokesperson for MGB declined to tell Just the News if misgendering or deadnaming — using a transgender person’s birth or legal name — counted as code violations.

“The code of conduct is an internal framework that will be used to evaluate each potential incident,” Mark Murphy, senior director of external communications for the system, wrote in an email. “Several of our hospitals have previously implemented similar guidelines,” he said without specifying them.

“Patients who repeatedly act in disrespectful or discriminatory ways may be asked to make other arrangements for care,” but exceptions can be made, “including for extenuating circumstances, such as emotional distress or severe pain,” Murphy said, without explaining why “repeatedly” isn’t specified in the code.

“It’s important to note that our code of conduct is in response to the national rise in violence and hostile behavior at healthcare facilities, and that is why offensive remarks and/or actions are cited in the policy,” he wrote.

Murphy pointed to an article by the Association of American Medical Colleges that cited federal figures on a rise in “violent attacks against medical professionals” through 2018, increased “aggression” against staff early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and nearly a quarter of physicians reporting they were “personally attacked on social media.”

The article refers to the hoax bomb threat made against Boston Children’s Hospital amid outrage about a video with its logo that referred to “gender affirming” surgeries, which the hospital then claimed it didn’t do on minors.

Another video with its logo appeared to directly target teenagers, noting it will “see people as young as age 15” for “top surgeries” — gender-affirming removal of healthy female breasts — whereas other surgical centers set a minimum of 18.

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Greg Piper has covered law and policy for 15 years, with a focus on tech companies, civil liberties and higher education. He joined Just the News from The College Fix, where he trained college students in journalism and covered the biggest controversies on campus, from free speech and academic freedom battles to sexual misconduct proceedings and litigation. His interest in college journalism was prompted by an effort to make a TV pilot about a college newspaper like his own.
Photo “Mass General Brigham” by Patriot-place. CC BY-SA 4.0.



Reprinted with permission from Just the News.

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