Does the color of your skin play a role in the quality of medical care you receive, the chance of a positive outcome, or the likelihood of medical malpractice?

Sadly, several recent analyses reveal that implicit racial bias infects the practice of medicine as it does in other professions and businesses. This is not to say that the medical profession is riddled with racists, but it does indicate that there are disparities between black and white Americans when it comes to medical care and treatment.


Racial Bias in Medicine

A recent New York Times article summarized years of surveys, reports, and studies about racial bias in medicine. These various studies typically utilized a combination of vignettes involving specific patient care scenarios as well as responses to the Implicit Association Test, a test designed to measure unconscious racial biases.

The results reveal clear differences between races when it comes to health care:

  • A 2017 review of nine separate studies published in Academic Emergency Medicine found an implicit preference for white patients in the majority of those studies, particularly among white physicians. Two studies found a link between this bias and clinical decision making, while one study concluded that racial bias was associated with a greater chance that whites would receive treatment for myocardial infarctions than African‑Americans.
  • A 2014 survey of 543 internal medicine and family medicine asked the doctors about the medical cooperativeness of patients who presented with severe osteoarthritis, and whether they would recommend a total knee replacement. The surveyed doctors reported that they believed the white patients were more medically cooperative than the African‑American patients, although that did not change the treatment recommendations for the patients.

As the author of the Times article encapsulated the scope of the problem:

There’s significant literature documenting that African‑American patients are treated differently than white patients when it comes to cardiovascular procedures. There were differences in whether they received optimal care with respect to a cancer diagnosis and treatment. African‑Americans were less likely to receive appropriate care when they were infected with H.I.V. They were also more likely to die from these illnesses even after adjusting for age, sex, insurance, education and the severity of the disease. Disparities existed for patients with diabetes, kidney disease, mental health problems, and for those who were pregnant or were children.

The quality of your healthcare should not depend on the color of your skin – or your doctor’s. All physicians and health care providers have a legal and ethical duty to treat every patient with the same standard of care. When a doctor breaches that duty and a patient suffers injury, adverse health consequences, or dies as a result, the doctor can and should be held accountable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Speak With a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At Sommers Schwartz, we work closely with patients and their families to obtain full compensation for injuries and losses caused by all forms of medical negligence. Our exceptional team of attorneys, nurses, and experts will investigate your claim and determine the course of action to obtain the best possible outcome.

Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group for a free consultation to review your case.

Kenneth T. Watkins

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Kenneth T. Watkins

Kenneth T. Watkins is an accomplished trial attorney and Senior Shareholder with Sommers Schwartz. Over the course of his career, he has obtained numerous multimillion-dollar settlements. His achievements include one of the largest seven-digit medical malpractice cases in Macomb County in 2008, and his election to membership in the exclusive Million Dollar Verdict Club.