Racial bias in medicine creates inequality in healthcare

In many ways, the well-documented failure of the healthcare industry to care for Black patients is more deadly than police violence. Black people in the United States have the lowest life expectancy compared with any other major group. There are many reasons for this, including lack of access to treatment, poverty, and inadequate care. However, clinicians’ lack of exam skills, bias in medical education, and lack of information also contribute to the early death of people of color in Connecticut and across the nation.

Take the example of melanoma, a treatable skin cancer that is frequently misdiagnosed or missed in Black people. If it is left untreated, melanoma can become fatal. Reggae musician Bob Marley was killed by melanoma. Patients of color can be misdiagnosed for melanoma or other skin conditions, because clinicians do not know how to recognize them.

On white skin, inflammation can appear pink or red, while on brown or Black skin, it can have a violet or brown appearance. Yet, medical textbooks have significantly underrepresented the manifestations of disease on skin that is pigmented. This failure to train clinicians how to diagnose conditions in people of color contributes to the increased likelihood of negative outcomes for patients of color.

Racial bias in medicine can also be seen in the kinds of images used by clinicians to discuss a diagnosis. If clinicians are showing people of color images that do not resemble them during medical discussions, it can lead to confusion and loss of trust. This loss of trust can affect patients’ behavior, which in turn, can affect the outcomes.

A misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis, whether from racial bias or another reason, can result in an adverse outcome. Depending on the situation, misdiagnosis could reach the level of medical malpractice. An attorney with an extensive background in medical malpractice cases can evaluate a case of misdiagnosis and explore options and possible outcomes.

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