Discrimination in Health Care Delivery Kills

New Orleans    These are the days when it seems that if it weren’t for bad news, there would be no news at all.  Today’s examples emerge from the swamp where we should find our saviors, the health care delivery system, its doctor priests, and its industrial hospitals.

More and more I don’t just hear the line, but read it from the experts as well, that hospitals are great places to go “in order to get sick.”  That’s a scary thing at a fundamental level.  When people are sicker than dogs, and we will all join them someday, but they now distrust hospitals and their doctors for fear of worse pain.  Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that way too much of this fear is well placed.

Not too long ago, we had to confront the brutal statistics that indicted the frequency in which racial discrimination delivers disparate treatment for African-Americans and Latinos in the healthcare system.  Delays in treatment compared to whites were ubiquitous.  Perhaps worse the evidence indicated that minorities were allowed to suffer more pain than whites and were more often misdiagnosed.

What has been done to correct and address this problem?  Nothing that I’ve heard.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  In fact, the way that healthcare is being attacked and stigmatized by the Trump administration and a number of the states, seems to prove they have learned nothing.

The latest avalanche of bad news indicates that what we have seen in racial discrimination is matched easily by gender discrimination.  Here’s a piece from a look at several new books on this issue reviewed by Parul Sehgal in The New York Times:

Women with abdominal pain wait in emergency rooms for 65 minutes compared with 49 minutes for men, and young women are seven times more likely to be sent home from a hospital while in the middle of a heart attack. Doctors rarely communicate (or understand) how drugs from aspirin to antidepressants affect women and men differently. Autoimmune disorders have been understudied because …three-fourths of the patients are women and it is considered a woman’s ailment, never mind that 37 million people are afflicted, as estimated by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. (In comparison, 15 million Americans have cancer.)  Women are consistently undertreated for pain, as one influential paper showed: Male patients are given pain relief while women, who are more likely to have their pain rated as “emotional,” are given sedatives. This also extends to children; a study of postoperative pain management found that boys were more likely to receive codeine and girls the gentler acetaminophen.

What will be done about this systemic discrimination based on race and gender?  Nothing without a demand.  We need to demand not simply that doctors “do no harm,” but that doctors “heal thyself!”