The European Agency for Fundamental Rights has published (March 2013) a report on ‘Inequalities and multiple discrimination in access to and quality of healthcare.’ This report looks at how ‘multiple’ discrimination is addressed legally and examines relevant case law with a special focus on healthcare. It also explores health users’ and professionals’ views and experiences on how people of different gender, age, disability and ethnic origin experience discrimination and multiple discrimination when accessing the health system in Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden and the UK.
The report examines some of the practical barriers and experiences of unequal treatment in accessing healthcare that people may face because of a combination of their traits (e.g. ethnic origin, gender, age and disability). The report finds that in such cases, people and their legal advisors often have difficulties in bringing a complaint of discrimination on ‘multiple’ grounds to court. This is either because of a poor understanding of ‘multiple’ discrimination, or because legally it is simply easier to deal with a complaint on only one particular ground. In healthcare, moreover, lawyers often do not file complaints as discrimination cases, due to lower compensation compared to, for example, medical malpractice suits.
These findings will contribute to discussions on the adoption of the proposed EU ‘Horizontal Directive’, legislation that would extend equal protection against discrimination on age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation to all fields, including healthcare. They will also improve understanding of how ‘multiple’ discrimination is experienced and addressed in policy making, and through complaints procedures.
The research for the report was coordinated by Professor Eleonore Kofman, Social Policy Research Centre, Middlesex University. The UK team consisted of Alessio D’Angelo, Dr. Erica Howard, Dr. Mary Tilki, and Dr. Elena Vacchelli from Middlesex University, Dr. Margaret Greenfields (Buckinghamshire New University) and Professor Mark Johnson (De Montfort University, Leicester).