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Yearby, Ruqaiijah. Race Based Medicine, Colorblind Disease: How Racism in Medicine Harms Us All
2021, The American Journal of Bioethics. 21(2): 19–27.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner
Abstract: The genome between socially constructed racial groups is 99.5%-99.9% identical; the 0.1%-0.5% variation between any two unrelated individuals is greatest between individuals in the same racial group; and there are no identifiable racial genomic clusters. Nevertheless, race continues to be used as a biological reality in health disparities research, medical guidelines, and standards of care reinforcing the notion that racial and ethnic minorities are inferior, while ignoring the health problems of Whites. This article discusses how the continued misuse of race in medicine and the identification of Whites as the control group, which reinforces this racial hierarchy, are examples of racism in medicine that harm all us. To address this problem, race should only be used as a factor in medicine when explicitly connected to racism or to fulfill diversity and inclusion efforts.

Comment: Yearby argues that appeals to racial categories—social, but especially biological—in medicine harm people from all races, including those from dominant racial groups, like Whites. Yearby first gives evidence for the claim that there is no biological reality to race. She then argues that the continued use of racial categorization in medicine—for instance, as a basis for different standards of care—leads to worse outcomes for all. For example, because Whites are often the de facto standard group in healthcare, their worse health outcomes are sometimes overlooked. Yearby ends by making suggestions for improving the categorization of people in healthcare.

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