Black patients misdiagnosed, and racial bias may be to blame

Of any major group in the U.S., black people have the lowest life expectancy. One reason is poverty and limited access to health care, and another has to do with racial bias in medicine. Connecticut residents should know that few clinicians, whatever their field, are specifically trained or equipped to diagnose conditions in black patients.

This is especially true in dermatology, where even well-known conditions like melanoma are misdiagnosed, leading to fatalities that could have easily been prevented. Black patients may come in with a rash resulting from lupus or an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, but being unable to recognize the rash, doctors would send them to the burn unit or elsewhere.

Most doctors have not been taught on the different ways that inflammation caused by increased blood flow would manifest itself. On white skin, it shows a red or pink color, but on pigmented skin, it can appear brown or violet. Racial biases can also affect the way clinicians use images to describe a condition to a patient. If the patient is black, using images of a white person, in whom the condition may appear differently, can create confusion and cause the patient to lose trust in the doctor.

Should diagnostic errors arise out of these limitations in the medical field, and should they lead to serious injuries, victims may pursue a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation for their losses. These could range from the cost of unnecessary treatments to lost income and pain and suffering. In their effort to achieve a good settlement, victims may want to have the assistance of an experienced attorney throughout the process.