The Swedish Equality Ombudsman has secured a major win in an important case concerning discrimination in healthcare services. The ruling followed a six day trial in what is to date the largest discrimination case ever in Sweden. In a ruling delivered on 26 May, the District Court of Gothenburg held that a Regional health care provider had discriminated a Muslim man of African origin for reasons linked to his ethnic origin. The discrimination occurred when the man (himself a medical doctor) suddenly collapsed in his home as a result of what was later determined to be a brain haemorrhage. An ambulance was called to the site. However, the responsible ambulance nurse did not consider the man to be in critical need of emergency care. Instead, and as it appears from the nurses’ notes in the journal, the nurse determined the man to be awake and alert, and that he was only “faking unconsciousness”. In the journal, the nurse also noted “cultural fainting?”.
Since the man’s symptoms were not taken seriously, he was given a low priority in the Emergency Room, and had to wait 90 minutes to be examined by a doctor. The man sustained serious brain injuries, never recovered, and died some months later. In its ruling, the Court determined the discrimination to be of a serious nature, and awarded the man’s estate roughly 8 000 EUR in compensation. The Court also determined that the man’s widow, herself black and Muslim, had been discriminated against by the ambulance crew (they demonstrably did not listen to the critical information she provided on her husbands’ condition). The widow was awarded roughly 3 000 EUR. The Ombudsman received full compensation for its litigation costs (roughly 110 000 EUR). The costs of the Healthcare provider amounted to roughly 250 000 EUR. The ruling is not final and may be subject to appeal.