Racism and bias based on gender, ethnicity and various other factors is a common practice in most parts of the world. However, a new investigation has revealed that the same bias can also land a person’s life in jeopardy as even medical professionals treat people based on the color of their skin.
The study published in the January issues of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management has showed that black people assuming the role of terminally ill patients in hospitals were less cared for as compared to whites.
The research used 33 doctors from Western Pennsylvania and put them in real-life situations, where they were made to encounter white and black actors portraying as patients. Although, the medical professionals were aware of the fact that they were taking part in a research, they had no details about it.
"Although we found that physicians said the same things to their black and white patients, communication is not just the spoken word," wrote Dr. Amber E. Barnato, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the study's senior author. "It also involves nonverbal cues, such as eye contact, body positioning and touch."
The results found that when interacting with white patients, doctors often stood closer to them, touched them or even stood with ease and explained their condition to them in detail. In contrast, when dealing with the blacks, the medics often preferred to stand at the door of the hospital room, and usually held a binder in their hands as a method of defense.
"When black and white patients receive more intensive treatment at the end of life than they prefer--for example in the ICU--it may result in various types of 'suffering'--including post-traumatic stress disorder among the bereaved family members," Barnato told The Huffington Post in an email.
Racism against black people is nothing new and various instances of such discrimination have been widely reported. One can only hope that with the passage of time people, especially medical professionals, will become more open towards others who don’t look like or act like them. Health care is a basic facility, a basic right, which should be equally available for people regardless of their sexual orientation, race, culture or caste.