The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is widely regarded as a prominent emblem of safeguarding fundamental human rights, grounded in a profound reverence for individual liberty that derives from traditional American democratic principles. However, despite prior discourse and events, it remains to be seen whether Americans comprehend the fundamental nature of free speech. .’Notwithstanding, the present literature review aims to contribute to the extant body of research by evaluating contemporary advancements in the domain and proffering a suggestion for a novel investigation that will scrutinize American perspectives on the concept of freedom of speech.
The persistence of medical racism has significantly harmed marginalized populations, leading to inequitable treatment and extensive physical and emotional distress. According to recent research conducted in 2023, it has been found that African Americans, constituting a mere 13% of the total population in the United States, are subject to a disproportionate impact of chronic ailments and exhibit elevated mortality rates as compared to their white counterparts. (CDC)
The statistic above serves as a poignant indication of the enduring disparities that afflict the healthcare system within the United States. Although medical science and technology have made significant progress, persistent racial disparities still expose a profoundly ingrained issue of medical racism that has yet to be sufficiently resolved. The ramifications of these inequalities extend beyond numerical figures and have tangible effects on individuals, households, and societies that experience the burden of inequitable availability of high-quality medical services. An imperative aspect of comprehending medical racism is to delve into the historical backdrop and systemic elements that have sustained it. The narrative of Henrietta Lacks serves as a framework to scrutinize the aftermath of these disparities. By shedding light on this matter, we can initiate the process of unraveling the multifaceted aspects of inequity and strive towards establishing a healthcare system that is fair and all-encompassing.
Harriet Washington, a prominent medical ethicist and author renowned for her work “Medical Apartheid,” provides a crucial perspective on the historical context of medical discrimination. In her book, Washington accounts for the horrendous acts against African Americans in pursuing medical progress. The author uncovers a disturbing past of systematic mistreatment and manipulation, wherein individuals of African-American descent were subjected to unscrupulous medical trials without their informed consent or awareness of the trials’ existence. As per Washington’s assertion, the harmful aftermath of medical racism persists in contemporary healthcare disparities, thereby engendering inequities and the affliction of marginalized populations. According to Thomas et al. (1991), rebuilding trust between the Black community and public health authorities can be facilitated by open and honest discussion regarding the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Dr. Camara Jones, a physician and epidemiologist, contributes to the discourse by highlighting the concept of “institutionalized racism” within the healthcare system’s framework. Dr. Jones prioritizes the recognition of the social determinants of health and the manifestation of racism at both individual and institutional levels. The author highlights the impact of racism on healthcare accessibility and quality of care for marginalized communities and the resultant health outcomes. Dr. Jones advocates for a comprehensive approach to address systemic barriers and establish a more equitable healthcare system. He acknowledges the impact of racism on the persistence of health disparities while engaging in this action. Throughout history, many prominent experts, intellectuals, and scholars have been involved in the creation and perpetuation of racial inferiority myths and stereotypes (Byrd et al., 2001)
The insights offered by experts in the field shed light on the complex and multifaceted nature of medical racism, emphasizing the urgent need to confront its deeply ingrained origins. A comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to healthcare disparities can be achieved by incorporating historical analysis and recognizing the impact of institutionalized racism. The observations made by the author pose a challenge to address the persistent structural inequalities present in the healthcare system. It is imperative to eliminate the barriers that perpetuate medical racism. Attaining equitable healthcare access and outcomes for all individuals, irrespective of their racial or ethnic background, necessitates a collaborative endeavor as a collective. The field of family medicine, which originated as a response to the need for reform in conventional medicine, is currently experiencing a renewed demand for action to address systemic racism and reduce health disparities (Sexton, 2021).
The story of Henrietta Lacks has attracted a significantly larger audience than it had before since Rebecca Skloot’s book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” came out in recent years. The book by Skloot looks at not only the complicated history of Henrietta’s cells, which are now called HeLa cells but also how these cells have been used in scientific research. The book specifically focuses on how these cells have been used to investigate cervical cancer. In addition to discussing the ongoing effects of medical exploitation on Henrietta and her family’s lives, Skloot delves deeper into Henrietta and her personal history.
Henrietta was not allowed to give her informed consent before using her cells, one aspect of the narrative that stands out as particularly significant. “When Henrietta was being treated, it was standard practice for doctors to take tissue samples from patients without asking for their consent,” Skloot writes in her book (Skloot 30). Skloot’s research is the source of this information. This technique was particularly noticeable among Dark patients, who were now and again treated as study subjects instead of people with organization and independence. Black patients were particularly susceptible to this approach.
Moreover, studies reveal that African Americans experience higher rates of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, and certain cancers. These disparities can be attributed to a complex interplay of social, economic, and environmental factors and implicit biases within the healthcare system.
Medical racism in the United States has a long and painful history that continues to shape the lives and health outcomes of marginalized communities, particularly African Americans. The story of Henrietta Lacks exemplifies the enduring legacy of exploitation and mistreatment within medical research. It is essential to confront this history, acknowledge the systemic injustices, and work towards creating a more equitable and just healthcare system for all. Addressing medical racism requires comprehensive efforts to dismantle systemic barriers, promote cultural competency, and ensure equal access to quality care for marginalized communities. Only through such actions can we strive for a healthcare system that truly serves the needs of all individuals, irrespective of their race or ethnicity.
Byrd, W. M., & Clayton, L. A. (2001). Race, medicine, and health care in the United States: a historical survey. Journal of the National Medical Association, 93(3 Suppl), 11S.
Thomas, S. B., & Quinn, S. C. (1991). The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, 1932 to 1972: implications for HIV and AIDS risk education programs in the black community. American journal of public health, 81(11), 1498-1505.
Sexton, S. M., Richardson, C. R., Schrager, S. B., Bowman, M. A., Hickner, J., Morley, C. P., … & Weiss, B. D. (2021). Systemic racism and health disparities: a statement from editors of family medicine journals. Canadian Family Physician, 67(1), 13-14.
Skloot, Rebecca. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Paperbacks, 2017.
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What are your thoughts on how medical racism shapes the lives of individuals experiencing it and their health outcomes?
Discuss the Flexnor Report and how it contributed to barriers to Black medical professionals.
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