EQUAL RIGHTS. A couple of weeks ago, under the appeal #utantystnadsplikt (“obligation against silence”), 10,400 female doctors spoke out against sexual harassment, abuse and sexism within the health care system. Now a response to the appeal has been written by deans at Sweden’s medical faculties, including Acting Dean Eric Hanse, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. Below you can see the response in its entirety.
#Utantystnadsplikt, a statement from Sweden’s medical faculties
We, the nation’s deans of the medical faculties, have received with deep concern the appeal #utantystnadsplikt from 10,400 female doctors and medical students. What has been presented about sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, discrimination and other abuses of power is obviously completely unacceptable. It shows that no sector of society is spared, even if one should be able to expect that we, who are engaged in professions that ultimately are based on a profound respect for the equal value of all people, would have greater powers of resistance. But obviously in our sector, too, cultures flourish that allow, or in any case have not been able to prevent, harassment against those who are in a state of dependence.
The appeal asks us, as well as others in positions of responsibility, how we intend to change the current situation, what concrete actions we intend to take and on what schedule.
As deans, pro-deans and deputy deans at the country’s medical faculties, we have responsibility for all students studying in the health care professions that are within our areas of responsibility. Our students are active in the university, but also in health care under VFU placement. Although responsibility for VFU also rests on the county council/municipal sector in which it is carried out, naturally it is our responsibility – along with the regions, county councils and municipalities – to ensure that our students also have a good study and work environment during the practical part of their education.
At all our universities, there are already guidelines for what applies if students or others are exposed to sexual harassment or various forms of discrimination. But this is not sufficient. What we need to deal with now is how to make these guidelines known so that it is clear to all students what action they should take in cases of suspected or confirmed harassment. We will do this in collaboration with the program management and with the affected student organizations in order to ensure that these will be measures that are perceived as appropriate by our students. All who are subjected to abuse, harassment or violations – and anyone who has witnessed or heard of such a thing – should be able to feel confident that they can tell us about it and that they will be treated with respect and be taken seriously, and in particular that managers at all levels will act decisively and responsibly on the basis of such information.
We will also meet with representatives of regions and county councils with responsibility for VFU placement to develop joint action plans – in case they do not already exist – to correspondingly ensure that students under VFU know how to handle cases of harassment and dare to report this when it occurs.
An issue that in many ways is more difficult, but necessary, is how we can put an end to the sort of events reported in #utantystnadsplikt and other appeals, as well as be able to break the trend that is emerging in student surveys, with more and more students experiencing negative special treatment. For this we need to a have a culture at our universities and in medical treatment and health care where harassment and discrimination is not accepted. We will continue to strive for this. It is the responsibility of all of us, and all managerial levels need to work together so that zero tolerance for violations and harassment is observed. It is our hope that the discussion that is now being generated in society based on what started as #metoo will help break the previous culture of silence.
On behalf of the Sweden’s medical faculties:
Eric Hanse, Acting Dean, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Anders Gustafsson, Dean, Karolinska Institutet
Annika Östman Wernerson, Dean of Education, Karolinska Institutet
Johan D. Söderholm, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Linköping University
Gunilla Westergren Thorsson, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Lund University
Patrik Danielson, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå University
Eva Tiensuu Janson, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University
Kerstin Nilsson, Dean, Faculty Board of Medicine and Health, Örebro University