A scary finding by Harvard researchers – skin color matters when doctors are making treatment decisions about their patients in emergency rooms, and the white patients are coming out ahead.
Physicians in the study were shown two computer-generated male patients (one black, one white) complaining of symptoms of a heart attack. Physicians were more likely to prescribe a potentially life-saving treatment to the white patient than to the black patient, and later evaluation designed to reveal unconscious biases showed (not surprisingly) that physicians with the most biased views of African Americans were less likely to provide the treatment to black patients. Though white doctors showed the most bias, black doctors showed some bias against black patients as well.
Though this study included only white and African American patients, I would not be surprised to see these findings replicated in future studies with other people of color. And so the health disparities continue – not only are low income people and many people of color unable to access the very preventive care needed to avoid emergency room visits, but even this last resort option is tainted by racism.
–Verónica Bayetti Flores