Medical malpractice is a serious issue for Black Americans due to several factors, including a bias in educational materials for clinicians and a lack of proper training. Black patients in Georgia, as well as other parts of the U.S., have a much higher morbidity rate from diseases than do white Americans, in large part because doctors are not trained to recognize how diseases manifest on darker skin.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, and many illnesses’ first symptoms appear on the skin. However, most doctors are trained to recognize those symptoms on white skin, not on people of color. For example, inflammation, a common skin symptom that can help diagnose many diseases, appears pink or red on white skin. On people of color, inflammation usually appears brown or violet in color. When the majority of examples used to show how to identify inflammation use only white skin, it’s easy for doctors and nurses to overlook inflammation on darker skin, leading to missed clues that could lead to delayed or missed diagnosis and treatment.
Racial bias in dermatological education is not the only cause of poor health outcomes in Black Americans, but unlike some of the other deeply entrenched causes, it is one that is fairly easily fixed. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals should be given plentiful examples of how skin diseases present in darker skin. Additionally, clinicians should use example images that accurately reflect their patients’ skin when showing them images and discussing their diagnoses. Not only is this more effective for helping patients understand their diagnosis and treatment plan, but it also helps build trust with their health care providers, which will increase their compliance and trust in the health care system.
Racial inequality has many causes and many disastrous effects; poor health care outcomes are some of the worst. If this is an issue that has personally touched your life and you are dealing with the fallout from a misdiagnosis, whether race-related or not, an attorney with experience in such issues may be able to help you decide on a course of action to ensure the best possible outcome.