‘Code of conduct’ or die? Hospital delivers Orwellian warning

A Massachusetts hospital has instituted a policy that allows its healthcare workers to deny services to anyone who says something offensive.

Milford Regional Medical Center announced the new policy in both a video from chief medical officer Dr. Peter Smulowitz and in a blog post published on Jan. 4th.

The video may be seen below:


“Milford Regional Medical Center is committed to providing exceptional health care services to our community with dignity, compassion and respect,” Smulowitz said in the clip above. “Everyone should expect a safe, caring and inclusive environment in all our spaces. Our patient and visitor code of conduct helps us meet this goal. Words or actions that are disrespectful, racist, discriminatory, hostile or harassing are not welcome and will not be tolerated.”

“Examples of these include offensive comments about others’ race, ethnicity, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other personal traits, refusal to see a clinician or other staff member based on these personal traits, aggressive or intimidating behavior, physical or verbal threats and assaults, sexual or vulgar words or actions, and disrupting another patient’s care or experience. Please recognize that body language and tone of voice are also important parts of communication,” he added.

“If we believe you have violated our code with unwelcome words or actions, you will be given a chance to explain your point of view. We will always carefully consider your response before we make any decisions about future care at Milford Regional. Know that we also have a similar code of conduct in place for our staff and providers. To review the full patient and visitor code of conduct, visit our website,” he continued.

He concluded the video by reaffirming the hospital’s commitment to so-called “inclusion.”

The blog post, seen here, contains much of the same rhetoric.

The video has triggered massive backlash.


While the hospital’s requirements may sound fair, critics worry that they’ll be abused to deny people care for ridiculous reasons.

Suppose, for example, that a patient accidentally “misgenders” a “transgender doctor”? Then what?

Something similar happened in real life just last year.

“[P]atient Marlene Barbera said her healthcare provider – Oregon Health & Science University – told her it’ll no longer treat her after she complained about its display of a transgender pride flag and made what it called ‘disrespectful and hurtful remarks’ about the LGBTQ community and staff at OHSU’s Richmond Primary Care Clinic in Southeast Portland,” The Oregonian reported in August.

“She said she’s fighting breast cancer, and although she has an oncologist who works for a different healthcare network, she now is scrambling to find a new primary care doctor. She said she’s scheduled for a double mastectomy later this month,” the paper added.

The only good news is she’s since found an alternative primary care doctor:

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