Hoberman John. “Medical Racism and the Rhetoric of Exculpation: How Do Physicians Think about Race?” New Literary History, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2007, pp. 505-525. Accessed 29 March 2017.
Over the course of the last 2 decades, medical literature has published hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that point to racially motivated decisions by physicians either to deny appropriate care to black patients or to inflict on them extreme procedures that many non-black patients would have been spared. Dr. H. Jack Geiger, in 1996, asked, “How are we to explain, let alone justify, such broad evidence of racial disparity in a health care system committed in principle to providing care to all patients?”. Dr. Geiger did his study but could not bring himself to categorize the documented behavior of his colleagues as racist. He further stated that if racism was involved, it is unlikely to be overt or even conscious. The fact that this medical racism could imply individual culpability was an avenue that he could not even see.
The methodology of this paper is based on the supposition that significant aspects of the medical racial folklore of the pre-Civil Rights period have persisted and adapted to modern circumstances to a greater extent than most of us would have assumed.There is, in fact, no reason to assume that medical students and doctors are less likely to absorb and act upon the racial narratives within society. The paper further mentions three medical students who dressed up in Blackface for Halloween and the only result was a demand for a public apology and racial sensitivity training. The author questions why this action did not result in the question of whether these students were fit to serve the potential African Americans who would consult them for medical treatment.
American medicine has reacted ambivalently to the more than 600 studies that have documented racial disparities in health care. Medical journals publish the hundreds of papers that confirm the disparities, however, medical authors have developed a rhetoric and a vocabulary that allow them to denounce racial health and treatment disparities without ever taking any real responsibility for them. As the authors of the Institute of Medicine report put it: “Survey research suggests that among white Americans, prejudicial attitudes toward minorities remain more common than not, as over half to three-quarters believe that relative to whites, minorities, particularly African Americans, are less intelligent, more prone to violence, and prefer to live off of welfare. It is reasonable to assume, however, that the vast majority of health care providers find prejudice morally abhorrent and at odds with their professional values. But healthcare providers, like other members of society, may not recognize manifestations of prejudice in their own behavior.” This portrait of the physician’s vulnerability to “prejudice” effectively exonerates them of responsibility, since denigrating or hostile motives are assumed to be absent.
The authors argument is that “… anyone who regards the past twenty years of self-exonerating publications as evidence of “serious reform” will be unable to imagine the “broader view of the problem” that might force the medical profession to reform”.