Racism In The Healthcare Industry Harms Black Pregnant Women

Every year, hundreds of women in the United States die during pregnancy, with more than 60% of these women’s deaths being preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The inconvenient truth is that racial disparities exist in these numbers. USA TODAY’s recent article titled “Without an ‘ounce of empathy’: Their stories show the dangers of being Black and pregnant” delved into the racism that continues to pervade the healthcare industry, specifically as applied to Black pregnant women.

A medical professional with racist biases, whether overt or unconscious, can cost a Black pregnant woman her life. USA TODAY referred to the aforementioned CDC reports highlighting the fact that education and income level do not have any impact on these tragedies, with college-educated Black women still being 5.2 times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women. For every 100,000 live births, 41 Black women die compared to 13 white women, and the mortality rate for Black infants is twice as high as that of non-Hispanic white mothers’ babies, according to the CDC. These statistics are heartbreaking, and something needs to be done about it.

The cause behind these statistics — as USA TODAY quoted an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Neel Shah — is racism, not a difference in biology between races. Supporting this statement, USA TODAY provided multiple reports from Black women and the horrors they faced in hospitals, as they are often ignored by medical staff and doctors. Their self-reported symptoms, which should be attentively listened to and addressed, fall on unconsciously or consciously racist ears only to be minimized and ignored.

USA TODAY cited multiple examples: Even accomplished and renowned tennis player Serena Williams’ symptoms and health concerns were ignored by hospital staff. Despite her history of blood clots and warning signs of pulmonary embolism, she was denied a CT scan and told that she was merely confused. When she finally did get a CT scan, she learned that she was, in fact, experiencing the pulmonary embolism she was telling the nurse about. Sadly, other Black women did not eventually receive the medical treatment they required, losing their babies or their own lives.

We Can Fix This Disparity

Fortunately, there are efforts to combat racism in the healthcare industry. According to USA TODAY, the states of New York and New Jersey both signed initiatives and, more importantly, expanded Medicaid coverage to cover doulas. New York even set aside millions of dollars to fight this issue. These actions can greatly help get rid of the disparity in the United States, so other states should follow suit.

Be Your Own Advocate

Because of the healthcare system’s pervasive racism, Black women interviewed by USA TODAY highlighted how extremely vital it is to be your own advocate when a medical professional ignores you. However, just because advocating for yourself is recommended, that does not mean you are at fault if these medical professionals mistreat you. Medical professionals should respect and listen to their patients; by law, minimizing and altogether ignoring symptoms is a form of malpractice that they can be held liable for.

You do not have to advocate for yourself alone. Brown & Barron, LLC can help you in your fight for your rights. Our attorneys have fought for the victims of malpractice committed by medical professionals and have more than 75 years of combined experience. We have a proven track record of success, recovering millions of dollars for our clients through our aggressive, determined representation. Having a child is one of life’s great joys; no person should have to suffer preventable injuries because of the color of their skin. Let us help you hold negligent parties accountable.

To speak to an experienced lawyer, call Brown & Barron, LLC today at (410) 698-1717.

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