Racial Bias Medical Education May Be Causing Misdiagnoses

August 12, 2020

By Grossman Green PLLC

Diagnostic errors are among the leading causes of malpractice claims in Kentucky and across the US. Of course, the reasons for misdiagnoses can vary. Some diseases, for example, are rare or share symptoms with another condition. Yet experts have said that racial bias in medical education is making misdiagnoses all too common among patients with brown or black skin.

How Black Patients Are Misdiagnosed

Many conditions go unidentified among black patients, including rashes that arise from immunologic diseases, like lupus, or adverse drug reactions. One black patient, for instance, developed body-wide blisters after taking a sulfa-based antibiotic and was sent to the burn unit. Though she survived, others are not as fortunate. Many die because when they develop melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer, they never get it correctly diagnosed.

Education Is Not the Only Problem

Clinicians are clearly not being taught that certain conditions will appear differently depending on the patient’s skin color. To take one example, white patients who suffer inflammation from increased blood flow will have red or pink skin, but in black patients, the inflammation appears brown or violet.

A second issue is the lack of appropriate information tools. For example, doctors may resort to images of white patients to describe the skin condition that a black patient has. This may confuse the black patient and prevent a trusting relationship.

Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case

If you suffered as a result of a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, and you believe that negligence was involved, you may have a medical malpractice case on your hands. It may be wise to hire a lawyer, though, because filing a claim and negotiating for a reasonable settlement can be hard to do on your own. In the end, you may be compensated for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.