Last month marks one year since the killing of George Floyd, and over that often-tumultuous timespan of public outrage, nationwide street demonstrations, and protest, Americans have been forced to take a critical and introspective look at ourselves as a nation of a diverse citizenry.
In the last year, we have confronted how racism in the day-to-day practices of our police and overall criminal justice system impacts the Black community. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically highlighted the ignominious and thus disconcerting reality that longstanding racial inequities in our institution of medicine are as commonplace and intact as they were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And as we approach Juneteenth, the annual holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, I’ve been forced to reconcile that Blacks in America cannot truly achieve freedom and liberation if medical racism still exists. For those of us who have experienced it firsthand, racism in medicine is as violent, dehumanizing, and socially destructive as wanton police brutality against African-Americans and other peoples of color in this country.
Like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, the institution of medicine requires a civil rights and physician reform act to combat physician misconduct as it pertains to racial bias and structural racism in medicine. History has repeatedly shown that laws backed up with enforcement and sanctions for violations can change behavior, such as school integration laws. Medical racism is an age-old practice that sorts and ranks people into hierarchal racial groups that predictably results in the allocation of quality care and resources and other favorable social rewards disproportionally to white patients to the maleficent neglect of its citizens of color.
From a public policy perspective, the Medical Practice Acts are state laws set in place to regulate the practice of medicine to ensure that patients are not injured or harmed and instead protected. These laws vary from state to state, and the behaviors typically deemed professional misconduct for physicians range from inadequate record-keeping to physical abuse of a patient.
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