In the United States, race once defined an individual’s level of freedom, including where they could enter, sit, and eat. Today, with African Americans at a higher risk than White Americans for obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, race also defines the quality of healthcare, making health disparities in African Americans the true silent killer.
Statistics from the American Heart Association and Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in African Americans. However, the link between race and health are obscured, and there is not much conversation dedicated to eliminating the socioeconomic and cultural barriers that make African Americans a target for death by disease.
So the question is what should we as healthcare professionals implement to address socioeconomic and cultural barriers that contribute to the healthcare disparities in African Americans and other minority populations? Should we continue to research different treatment regimens that can improve the overall health of African Americans and other minority groups? Or should we continue to educate these populations through traditional patient education? The Answer is No! In order for us to get something that we have never had, that means we have to do something that we have never done. The solution to this issue must extend beyond medicine, and instead be addressed by community leaders, community health providers, and minority healthcare professionals so race can be a category and not a barrier to quality healthcare.
There is undoubtedly a necessity to increase the level of cultural sensitivity among physicians, nurses, & other healthcare personnel; recognize unfavorable socioeconomic and cultural barriers as a preexisting condition; improve the community surrounding African Americans & other minority patients; and increase the number of minority healthcare workers. Implementing these actions will begin the process of closing the gap of socioeconomic and cultural barriers that contribute to the healthcare disparities in African Americans and other minority populations.
Does the Constitution embrace a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion? What organization ensures medical studies is ethical? Is it acceptable for a patient to reject medical treatment that improves their quality of life?
The above questions are answered by previous cases considered to be landmarks in the medical and legal community. Several court decisions changed what is considered acceptable in the medical community. Explore the below five influential historical medial ethic cases.
Roe v. Wade
The 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade is still debated heavily in politics. Before this case, most of the United States’ laws only allowed women to get abortions if the life of the mother was in danger. The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the states was forbidden from outlawing or regulating abortions performed during the first trimester of a pregnancy. Although the court ruling was about 40 years ago, this is an issue for many that believe abortion is unethical.
Tuskegee Syphilis Study
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study is an infamous clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the progression of untreated syphilis in poor black men in Alabama. This experiment took place between 1932 and 1972 and tricked participants into thinking they were receiving free health care from the government. The participants were unaware they would be infected with syphilis and left untreated. After a leak to the press, the experiments stopped, the Office for Human Research Protections was established, and federal laws were put in place that required Institutional Review Boards for studies that involve human subjects.
Gonzales v. Oregon
In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide after enacting the Death with Dignity Act, which allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs if the patient is terminally ill and within half a year of death. The Attorney General sought control of the situation under the Controlled Substances Act, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oregon and said the Attorney General could not overrule state laws. Since then, California has also approved assisted suicide, and it is an ethical topic with growing importance in the medical community.
Bouvia v. Superior Court
Elizabeth Bouvia was mentally competent, yet she suffered from cerebral palsy that left her wholly dependent on others to live. In 1983, she expressed a desire to end her life through an attempt to starve herself in a California public hospital. The hospital eventually ended up inserting a nasogastric tube against her wishes. She sued the hospital. After an appeal, it was decided that the hospital should respect the patient’s wishes if they are sound of mind when they make that decision.
Sherley v. Sebelius
In 2008, The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health was sued after President Obama took away some of the more strict guidelines and rules on stem cell research that President George Bush had put into place. It was decided in court that the NIH was following proper guidelines regarding stem cell research and the Supreme Court rejected to hear an appeal. Stem cell research is extremely controversial for many in the medical field because of the conflict of two very separate beliefs.
History doesn’t only repeat itself, but is also serves as a precedent especially when legal cases are concerned. These five historical medical ethics cases continue to impact the legal and medical field.
Conger, K. (2013). Supreme Court Decision on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Case Ends
Research Uncertainty. Retrieved From: http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2013/01/08/sup