Racial Bias in Medical Books

By Sofia Rojas, 9th Grade

Racial bias is condemned as an unreasoned judgment made on an individual’s race. However, today racial bias in medical textbooks is threatening the well-being of POC citizens.

For years, the medical field has misrepresented racial identity in patients. By 2014, the majority of U.S physicians had an implicit favor for white patients. In addition to a substantial number of medical students hold a false belief about anatomical differences based on race. According to a paper featured in the National Library of Medicine, 75% of the skin tones represented in medical textbooks were “light” compared with only 5% of the skin tones being “dark”. In places like South Africa where the majority of the population is considered black, the medical field has infused anatomical learning based on white prototypes.  Nonetheless, this lack of representation is causing severe damage to the diagnosis of POC patients. In the status quo, black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to receive a later diagnosis of skin cancer. 

However, skin cancer is not the only late diagnosis in black patients. Black people are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes, and depression. Breast, cervical, lung, colon, and skin cancer have a higher mortality rate in black people due to the later diagnosis by physicians. Researchers show that 52% of black people received an initial diagnosis of an advanced stage of skin cancer compared with 16% of white people. As a result, this immense bias is being transformed into pure textual discrimination. In 2017, a publisher apologized for racist texts in its medical books. In this book, the author claimed that blacks report a higher pain tolerance, that Jews may be demanding and vocal about assistance, along with Hispanics having the belief that pain is a form of punishment and must be endured to enter heaven. 

Race is also a determinating factor in kidney diseases and their social development. Scientists assumed that the reason for higher levels of creatine in black people was “higher muscle mass” on black people. Due to this incorrect assumption, black people must have a lower gcf score than white people to be properly diagnosed. 

It is extremely important to stop racial bias in medical books. Due to these stereotypes and lack of representation, patients are being undiagnosed and hurt in the process. Diseases like cancer should be treated fairly without having to depend on race.



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