Racial Discrimination Within the Healthcare Industry

Jenna Sakhleh - Teen Aspect - May 20th, 2022
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Our healthcare system has values that workers must abide by. Including treating every patient with respect, listening to their concerns, and providing the best care. Although our healthcare system has had notable flaws shown over the years, society must understand the realities in order for reform to occur. Racial inequality, being one, happens present-day, globally. Minorities and people of color often do not receive equal care and medical quality as their white peers.

The National Academy of Medicine documented a report concluding that black people, compared to white people, have a shorter lifespan and are more susceptible to injuries. Such conclusions can all be traced back to racial discrepancies in health care towards minorities. Khiara Bridges states, "Minority persons are less likely than white people to be given appropriate cardiac care, receive kidney dialysis or a transplant, and receive the best treatment for stroke, cancer, or AIDS." Per the Center for American Progress, statistics justify these previous claims. The leading cause of death for Hispanics and African Americans is heart disease and cancer. More specifically, tuberculosis (a bacteria attacking the lungs) is 35 times more common among Asian Americans than white people. It is believed that racial bias, coming from physicians, stems from a place of a negative narrative and the belief to uphold a hierarchy of white men and females and inferiority to minorities. Reported cases show physicians are easily influenced to prescribe pain medication to a white patient but are hesitant to prescribe pain medication to a black patient. Lawsuits reported an issue in Los Angeles, California, in 2016 where a black woman, Kira Dixon Johnson, died hours after childbirth. Reports showed the patient was readmitted to the operation after hours of pleading from her husband. The patient’s cause of death was determined to be internal bleeding. Autopsy reports showed the bleeding came from a lacerated bladder and improper sutures made after childbirth. Johnson’s husband reported the extensive degree of negligence his wife received when reporting emotional and physical distress. Maternal mortality rates are higher for black women versus white women. While we cannot prove discrimination from doctors, it is essential to note the statistical data showing people of color/minorities do not experience the same level of equality as a white person would in the healthcare field.

How Can the Healthcare System Reduce Racial Disparities in the Field?

While Kira Dixon Johnson's case received proper attention from law officials, most patients do not. As a result, the healthcare system must make the required changes to overcome racial disparities. While a racial motive cannot officially be proven, efforts to overcome this correlation should be made.

There are many reports of racial motives, yet can’t be physically quantifiable. But how can the healthcare system reduce healthcare disparities?? The AMA (American Medical Association) is ideally the primary strategy to end health care disparities. The AMA has the power to raise awareness surrounding racial inequality in healthcare. Specifically, the American Medical Association educated medical schools and students on proper health care worldwide. According to the AMA Policy Finder, these policies include "Gender Equity in Medicine, Equity in Health Care for Domestic Partnerships and Strategies for Enhancing Diversity in Physician Workforce." With these guidelines, the American Medical Association prioritizes the importance of reducing racial inequality in healthcare. The healthcare system must prioritize patient care for every race and gender.


Americanbar.org, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/the-state-of-healthcare-in-the-united-states/racial-disparities-in-health-care/.

President, Julia Cusick Interim Vice, et al. “Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity.” Center for American Progress, 9 July 2018, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/health-disparities-race-ethnicity/.

Press, The Associated. “Lawsuit Says a Black Patient Bled to Death Because of a Hospital's Culture of Racism.” NPR, NPR, 5 May 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/05/05/1096833756/racism-lawsuit-cedars-sinai-medical-center-wife-death.

“Reducing Disparities in Health Care.” American Medical Association, https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/patient-support-advocacy/reducing-disparities-health-care#:~:text=Increase%20awareness%20of%20racial%20and,apply%20to%20private%20HMO%20participants.

“Policy Finder.” AMA, https://policysearch.ama-assn.org/policyfinder/search/health%20equity/relevant/1/.

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