Radio New Zealand today reported a speech in which Hutt Valley paediatrician Dr Leo Buchanan lamented the small number of Maori child health specialists. Dr Buchanan, who is himself part-Maori, said that of New Zealand’s 292 paediatricians, barely six had any known Maori affiliations. Child health services should be provided by Maori for Maori, RNZ quoted him as saying.
Am I alone in finding this peculiar? To the best of my knowledge, Maori children are physiologically the same as children of European, Indian or Chinese lineage. Does it matter if the doctor treating them is named Ropiha or Muru rather than Jones, Chan or Krishnamurthi? The answer surely is no - yet it seems a campaign is underway to convince people that only a doctor of the same ethnicity can treat them properly.
New Zealanders of all cultures and skin colours are routinely treated by doctors of Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese and Middle Eastern origins without protest, and without suffering any adverse effects. Surely it’s the availability and competence of the treatment that counts, not the ethnicity of the medical professional.
Is this where identity politics – the socio-political phenomenon whereby minorities define themselves primarily by their ethnicity, and insist on being treated differently from their fellow citizens – has led us?