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How skin color can affect medical care

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Residents of New York City have joined citizens across the nation in protest of unfair treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. However, while police brutality as a form of disparate treatment is being recognized, some health activists say racial discrimination in the healthcare system can pose more of a threat.

The history of medical malpractice endured by Black Americans is well-documented; the health of Black patients is often affected by lack of access to medical care, less than adequate treatment and poverty. To make matters worse, the education many health professionals receive does not provide the tools necessary to diagnose and treat ailments in Black patients. All these factors combine to leave African Americans with the lowest life expectancy of any large ethnic group in the United States.

Racial discrimination in dermatology

One dermatologist says that the inadequate health care many Black Americans receive is evident in his field of specialty. He says that many dermatologists are improperly trained to diagnose the signs of illness in the skin of Black patients. The doctor points to the case of reggae singer Bob Marley as an example: Marley lost his life after a battle with melanoma. This type of skin cancer is treatable but often misdiagnosed in Black patients.

The dermatologist went on to explain that he has seen misdiagnosis ranging in seriousness from the inability to detect a minor allergic rash to the failure to diagnose serious autoimmune diseases like lupus.

Properly identifying inflammation could be a part of the solution

Inflammation is often the first response of the body to injury or illness. The presence of inflammation alerts doctors to an existing problem and shows where on the body the problem is found. Doctors know that an area is inflamed when they see redness in the affected area. The problem is that this redness is common only in patients with fair skin. In Black patients, inflammation often appears brown or violet. Health professionals concerned with the plight of Black patients say that many health conditions would not progress to the point of danger if doctors receive better training to identify inflammation in these patients.

Patients put a lot of faith in doctors. It can be devastating to the life of a patient if the doctor they trusted proves negligent. Individuals who suffer due to improper treatment from a medical professional may benefit from speaking with a medical malpractice attorney.