Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Type of Racial Profiling

While it's extremely difficult to tell in any given situation how much race -- consciously or subconsciously -- plays a role in a doctor's decision making, multiple studies over several decades have found doctors make different decisions for black patients and white patients even when they have the same medical problems and the same insurance. ~

The dialogue that was begun with the case of Professor Gates is spreading to other area of racial profiling and prejudice in the United States. The article, Does your doctor judge you based on your color?, by CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, documenting differing degrees of medical treatment (and respect) afforded patients based upon their race should shock me. Unfortunately it doesn't.

Through my years of visiting medical and nursing home facilities in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri both as a clergyperson and as a social worker, I have noted more than one that the color of one's skin can be a determining factor in the quality of medical care one receives. I believe that this is true especially in hospital emergency rooms.

As with Mr. Reid in the example given in the above referenced CNN story, Mr. Reid observed, the doctor he saw at the emergency room evidently assumed he wasn't intelligent or educated well enough to understand his medical condition and also, because he was African-American, he probably couldn't afford the more expensive but less invasive procedure.

I wish I knew what it will take to enable Americans to look at other people and not judge them by superficialities such as their color or their skin. Moreover, I wonder how long it will be before humans the world over can recognize simply the humanity of other people.


  1. I haven't particularly noticed this myself but that might have something to do, Nick, with not being inside a medical facility for years.

  2. Good point - and if highly educated doctors can have these racial biases I have no doubt that racism played a big part in the arrest of Gates.

  3. good point.Let thow this into the mix,no matter what color you are if you are taking a certain set of medications and or on your medical records if the person is currently being seen by a phychatrist the medical care goes down hill from there.the Er Dr,assumes that a) you are facking the problem or B) that you meant hurt your self.This happend to me when I had a seizure while standing on my steps by my front door,I went down and hit my head hard on the concrete drive way.

  4. It's not just Americans that judge people by their colour Nick. Sad isn't it? :(

  5. Sad reality. There are all kinds of prejudices in the world. I grew up in the South. Need I say more?

  6. Here's what I think. I think the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is making us all more aware of our prejudices. We're not all bigots, but we do all have prejudice. It's a human characteristic.

    I think that as we continue to be more and more aware of our prejudices and how they can cause us to pre-judge a person or situation, we can start to put aside those behaviors that are driven solely through prejudiced reactions.

    In other words, I think that President Obama is another pivotal person in the movement toward kindness, tolerance, and respect for humanity.

    It continues to take a huge effort to eliminate bigotry. We are all responsible for this effort.