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When Race Gets in the Way of Effective Medical Care

It seems ludicrous to think that racial stereotypes types would, in any way, affect the level of care that a black patient receives from a white doctor. But in a recent study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, researchers found that false beliefs (held by white doctors) about biological differences between white and black people resulted in white doctors being more likely to rate the physical pain of a black patient as less severe than the pain level experienced by a white patient.

Race-based Assumptions Affect Level of Care

The researchers further concluded that not only were white doctors more likely to underrate African American patients’ pain levels, they were also more likely to treat white patients’ pain more aggressively.

The observations are backed up by years’ worth of data showing that black patients are less likely than whites to be prescribed pain medications. What’s more, when black patients are prescribed pain medication, it tends to be in smaller doses than their white counterparts receive (despite reporting similar levels of pain), according to the article Does a white doctor understand a black patient’s pain?

Why the Stereotype?

Researchers have sought to uncover the mystery behind why the stereotype – that black people endure pain better than white people – exists. According to the same article cited above, the misconception may be based on the belief that only the strongest African Americans, and those most impervious to physical pain, were able to cope with the severe labors of slavery.

And the belief is not a new one; tragically, black people were used in multiple experiments in the 20th century under the pretense that they could better tolerate pain.

Unfortunately, most conceptions about the biological differences between blacks and whites are misguided. While it is true that black people have stronger bones than white and are less at risk of developing spinal diseases, the ideas that black people have stronger immune systems or have high pain thresholds (because their nerve endings are less sensitive) are false.

When Racial Bias Impairs Level of Care Received

As stated above, the fact that race would affect the level of a care a patient receives in today’s day and age is shocking, and completely unacceptable. But the research shows that it is happening, and black patients may not be receiving the level of care they deserve – in regards to treatment for pain – based solely on the color of their skin.

Your Right to Quality Care

No matter who you are, your socioeconomic status, your race, religion, or gender, you deserve quality medical care. If you believe that the standard of care regarding your medical treatment has been violated, and you have suffered harm as a direct result, you should meet with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss whether or not you have a case. To schedule a free case consultation with a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney you can trust, call the law offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. now or contact us using our online form.

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