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Mixing the Sexes in New South Wales Hospitals – A 15-Year Saga

Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making

ISBN: 978-1-78714-416-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-415-6

Publication date: 16 May 2017


The hospital practice of placing male and female patients in the same room in general wards, and sometimes in adjoining beds, is an index of the extent to which lack of respect for patient dignity remains a key issue within our hospitals notwithstanding the popularity of ethics as a formal subject and topic of discussion, and the rise of ethics as a career subspecialty in our healthcare system. In this study, we examine responses from those who consider the practice acceptable notwithstanding patients’ objections. These can be classified into the following groups: (1) a necessary trade-off in the interests of economic or efficiency factors such as staff shortages or bed shortages or bed-block, (2) failure to see what is wrong with the practice such as “wonderful free health system,” “patients should be grateful for what they get,” and “the insured can go elsewhere,” and (3) it is the patient’s fault for not objecting. The fact that the practice has continued for 15 years, means there is now an entire generation of hospital staff who accept it as normal and participate in it, to the detriment of patients. Accordingly, this paper is a cautionary tale with regard to allowing what is generally regarded as “off-limits” to occur and relying on protocols to contain the activities they unleash.




We would like to thank referee(s) for their helpful comments in the preparation of the manuscript.


Kennedy, J. and Kennedy, M. (2017), "Mixing the Sexes in New South Wales Hospitals – A 15-Year Saga", Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 147-154.



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