Inequalities and multiple discrimination in access to and quality of healthcare

Certain people are seen as particularly vulnerable to unequal treatment, because they share a combination of characteristics that may trigger discrimination. A Roma woman sterilised without her informed consent, for example, has suffered discrimination not just because of her sex, as all women do not face this treatment, nor just because she is Roma, as Roma men may not face this treatment. The discriminatory treatment is based specifically on the intersection of her sex and ethnic origin.

Although awareness of this phenomenon of multiple discrimination is on the rise, EU law has yet to adequately address it. Current EU law provides better protection against discrimination based on race and sex than on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual discrimination, making it difficult to tackle multiple discrimination.

This research project aims to shed light on the experience of multiple discrimination in healthcare. It looks at how ‘multiple’ discrimination is legally addressed and examines relevant case law with a special focus on healthcare. It also explores healthcare 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. It found respondents had experienced unequal or unfair treatment in relation to access to and quality of healthcare, discusses a number of barriers they face and points to possible improvements.

See also the Q&A on multiple discrimination in healthcare.

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