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Patient Rights Pitted Against Civil Rights in Nursing Home Bias Case

Posted Aug 25, 2010 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Indiana patient rights law led one Indiana nursing home to go along with the wishes of a resident who specified she wanted only white caregivers.

The law says patients can choose their “providers of services” and nursing homes must reasonably accommodate residents’ preferences, the Associated Press reports. Plainfield Healthcare Center allowed patients to dictate the race of their certified nursing assistants, noting on the daily assignment sheet for one of its black workers, Brenda Chaney, that one resident “prefers no black CNAs.”

Chaney eventually challenged the practice and won a ruling last month by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The racial preference policy violates federal discrimination laws by creating a hostile work environment, the opinion said.

Steve Maag, director of assisted living and continuing care at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, told AP that he gets questions several times a year from nursing homes dealing with patients’ expressed racial preferences. The issue "comes up occasionally in virtually every state in the United States," Maag said.

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