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Investigation reveals racial discrimination rife in Swedish dental practices


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An intense debate about systemic racial discrimination in Sweden has raged in the country's public sphere in recent weeks. (Image: betseyph/Shutterstock)
Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

Fri. 6 August 2021


STOCKHOLM, Sweden: An explosive new report by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter has revealed the widespread existence of ethnic discrimination at both public and private medical and dental practices across the Nordic nation. Posing as new patients looking to be treated by so-called “ethnically Swedish” practitioners, journalists from the newspaper contacted more than 100 healthcare facilities and found that nearly half of these agreed to their request.

The investigation was initiated after Dagens Nyheter received several reports of patients refusing to be treated by non-white medical and dental professionals, irrespective of the professional’s cultural background. According to an article in the Swedish version of the Local, the topic of systemic discrimination has been a locus of heated debate in the country in recent weeks after a Swedish police officer went on the radio to discuss the issues and prejudice he had faced in his profession owing to his foreign background.

A team of reporters from Dagens Nyheter subsequently contacted 120 medical centres and dental practices across the country under the pretext that they were patients who would soon be moving to a new municipality and would thus need to register with a new healthcare provider. In all conversations, a “Swedish-Swedish” or “ethnically Swedish” medical professional was requested. All in all, 51 healthcare providers agreed to the request, 40 did not, and many of the remaining practices only had staff members of Swedish ancestry.

According to the report, one particular public dental clinic in the city of Östersund not only offered to provide dentists of Swedish ancestry, but also gave tips on how to avoid dentists of foreign backgrounds. Meanwhile, Smile Tandvård, a large private dental chain with practices across Sweden, offered prospective patients at five different practices the option of choosing their dentist’s ethnicity. Smile Tandvård declined to comment on Dagens Nyheter’s findings.

Dr Katrin Rabiei—the first woman of colour to qualify as a neurosurgeon in Sweden—took to Twitter to voice her displeasure regarding the report’s findings:

“The law is clear. As an employer, you must not discriminate against or disadvantage anyone on the basis of ethnicity,” Lars Arrhenius, head of the Equality Ombudsman, told Dagens Nyheter. “If an employer does so, it can lead to a violation of the Discrimination Act,” he added.

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