The hospital where Harinder Veriah died issued a statement last night denying claims made at her inquest that she was the victim of discrimination.
Ruttonjee Hospital said: ‘The hospital reiterates that all patients are treated equally by health care professionals with appropriate medical care, regardless of their races and background.’
It pointed out that although the coroner made no reference to the racism allegations in his verdict, he had described it as unsubstantiated earlier in the inquest.
‘In the course of the inquest, the coroner commented that the allegation of racial discrimination by the husband of Ms Veriah was only an assertion by him and it was not substantiated by any evidence,’ the statement said.
But an ethnic Indian interest group said it ‘would not be surprised’ if racial discrimination had been levelled at Harinder Veriah. The director of the Indian Resources Group, Ravi Gidumal, said: ‘Minorities of a darker skin complexion and from poorer countries are treated poorly in general,’ he said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this attitude had manifested itself in medical circles.’
Mr Gidumal believes that whites are perceived to be from wealthy countries and ‘materially worthwhile’, so they tend to be afforded a certain level of service. Dark-skinned people, on the other hand, are seen to be from poorer countries and therefore uneducated, poor and not deserving of the same level of service.
He said racism ranged from pupils being denied entry to certain schools, to people having difficulty finding jobs or renting a flat and being ignored by mini-buses and taxis. ‘Perhaps foreigners are regarded differently because China has a largely homogenous population and not as many immigrants as other countries,’ he said.
Veriah’s husband, Martin Jacques, was visibly disappointed at the verdict, appearing pale and drawn. He said in a written statement late yesterday that while he respected the coroner’s verdict, his own view of what happened to his wife was ‘quite different’.
‘Her death was entirely avoidable. That the coroner should deem the hospital’s management of my wife as reasonable suggests that medical standards in Hong Kong are way below what is acceptable in a modern society.’
– Heike Phillips