Unlike cellphone footage of gratuitous police violence which races across social media like wildfire, many other aspects of the structural racism that undergirds the United States remains out of sight, allowing people to chalk up events like police killings to “a few bad apples.” One of the most devastating forms in which this discrimination appears is in the worlds of medicine and health care where people of color, especially Black people are provided with inferior forms of care, which are often deadly.
One such instance was recently highlighted in the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post. Dr. Susan Moore was admitted to a hospital in Indianapolis where the care she received was demeaning and lackluster. Dr. Moore’s physician refused to do basic procedures like checking her lungs and did not listen to her descriptions of increased pain, despite knowing she was a fellow physician. Eventually, she was discharged and a week later died.
It is important to think about how Dr. Moore’s position at least allowed her voice to be heard by fellow practitioners and activists, who were able to bring her story to the pages of one of the nation’s major newspapers. So many more people suffer the same fate as Moore without so much as a notice, despite the fact that morbidity and mortality rates for minorities far exceeds their proportion of the population. For instance, Black mothers experience pregnancy-related mortality rates two-to-three times that of white mothers, while Black patients are less likely to be believed or listened to, just like Dr. Moore.
Such structural issues do nothing to change people’s minds about the efficacy of a health care system that has never worked for them and for long periods of US history has exploited Black people’s vulnerabilities to perform medical experiments away from the public eye, such as the infamous Tuskegee Study, in which medical researchers used black men to research syphilis without their consent. Such well-founded mistrust of the medical system continues to affect the medical profession and provision, including the coronavirus vaccine trials.