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“If You Are Experiencing a Medical Emergency Please Hang Up and Call 911”

Flaws in our system of medical emergency care

Toy Ambulance. Photo Credit: Puuikibeach

Recently, a family member experienced a medical emergency. When we call the doctor, we received this message.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency please hang up and call 911.

In the past, I have heard this recording on medical and dental facilities' answering systems and thought nothing of the message. I just accepted it as proforma. It was simply something all healthcare facilities included in their very annoying answering system algorithm.

For whatever reason, when I called the medical facility and I heard that message, I said to myself “WTF!”.

Is the medical community so out of touch that no one stopped to consider that when Black people in particular and People of Color in general call 911 they tend to wind up dead? Even in medical emergencies. I am not going to list here all the Black people that have been shot dead by police who responded to a medical emergency call.

Calling 911 has been shown to be inversely related to staying alive as a Black person in America. So why has the healthcare community not responded to this paradigm for Black people in America and are still advising us to call 911?

In a word — Racism.

That’s right good old-fashioned racism.

Despite numerous studies that have documented poor health outcomes for Black people and People of Color, the healthcare community is often slow or unwilling to respond. This is probably is the result of individuals in the healthcare system that are racist themselves.

It is time for the healthcare system to change. At a bare minimum stop instructing all patients to call 911 in the case of an emergency because for some of us that may be more detrimental than the healthcare challenge we are experiencing.



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Dr. Elizabeth N. Webster

Dr. Elizabeth N. Webster


Fmr Candidate for Ga State House. Epidemiologist. Researcher. Business Owner. Civically Engaged.