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Women & Minorities Shine On The Medical Misdiagnosis Stage

By Sabrina Lynch

  • At least 12 million adults are medically misdiagnosed every year in the U.S 
  • People of color are up to 30% more likely to be medically misdiagnosed than White men

Medical misdiagnosis has reached a ‘code red’ level that’s leaving Black bodies in its wake. New research has revealed that communities of color are nearly 20% to 30% more likely to experience a medical mistake than their White counterparts. The study found that rates of misdiagnosis range from 17.5% of strokes, 22.5% of lung cancers and 1.5% of heart attacks. Weakening of the heart muscle is especially concerning given it’s the most common cause of maternal death among Black women. This misconduct in medicine underscores the need for much-needed racially informed protocols in healthcare. 

Why This Matters: America has an urgent public health problem on its hands that’s wracked with racial bias. Black people have the highest rates of death from heart disease and  African-Americans who experience depression are more likely than others to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. In 2022, around 22 maternal deaths occurred for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. However for Black people, that number rose pointedly to 49.5 deaths per 100,000 which re-emphasizes the fact that maternal mortality is highest amongst Black women

A study also discovered that too many doctors are misdiagnosing disease on skin of color. Ironically, these stereotypes extend to books. In general medical textbooks, patients with dark skin only occupy 4.5% of the images. Alarmingly, 1 in 4 hospital patients in the U.S who died or were transferred to intensive care had experienced a diagnostic error, and 18% of misdiagnosed patients were harmed or died. When lives are being placed in jeopardy, it’s unacceptable that these practices should continue. 

What’s Next: Given that we’re in an election year, healthcare policy should be at the top of the agenda in the Presidential campaign trail. It needs to be in black and white that these biases that lead to medical missteps will be erased. Advocacy of imposing reforms to shift the quality of care in swing states will be key to winning over BIPOC voters considering the dire state of health equity.

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