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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Racial disparities in healthcare treatment

Racial+disparities+in+healthcare+treatment

A reflection on the death of model/actress, Kim Porter

When I heard about the death of Kim Porter, I was shocked. Porter passed away at only 43 years old. She had been a model and actress, best known for her relationship with P. Diddy.

With her cause of death still unknown, I have read reports which claim Porter was suffering from pneumonia at the time of her death. Although a complete cause of death has yet to be released, the possibility of Porter dying from a treatable illness doesn’t sit well with me.

Porter’s death hits close to home for me because she is close to my mother’s age. My mother is only 54 years old, and has suffered two heart attacks, one just a few weeks ago. When she had the first heart attack, she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance only for the paramedics to drop her off in the waiting room where she sat for 45 minutes before she was treated.

Who knows what could have happened if she sat curled in a ball in a waiting room chair for just a few more minutes?

Thankfully, when she had the second heart attack, the paramedics acted with urgency and she was immediately rushed into surgery. Had the doctors not acted fast, my mother might not be here today. I am constantly worried about my mom.

In the U.S., black women die at alarming rates, not due to a prevalence of life threatening illnesses, but because they are not afforded the same quality of medical care as others. It seems that one of the wealthiest countries in the world cannot, or will not, keep black women from dying.

Pregnant black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth or childbirth-related illnesses. Even world-famous tennis star Serena Williams is no stranger to the maternal death disparity, having almost lost her life after being initially ignored by medical personnel.

Black women are dying, or at a higher risk of dying, while receiving medical care and I’m starting to wonder how no one else is noticing. 

Racial biases are prevalent everywhere, and healthcare is no exception. Institutional and structural racism are affecting black women’s lives in hospitals all around the country where they are treated as if they are unworthy of proper medical care; where their pain and concerns are being ignored.

Doctors are much more likely to underestimate a black patient’s pain than a non-black patient’s pain and, in turn, under-prescribe them medication for their pain.

False beliefs about biological differences between races, and just plain contempt for black bodies are plaguing the medical industry and black women are paying the price.

During my senior year in high school, I got sick and my doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I distinctly remember visiting the emergency room, and the doctor telling me that whatever was wrong was most likely just stress.

She recommended I get some sleep (mind you I was sleeping for over 10 hours a day) and maybe get a therapist. After countless blood tests and trips to different doctors, a neurologist diagnosed me with a sleep disorder and POTS. I am so grateful for my doctor’s refusal to give up on me, but many black women aren’t as lucky.

Health obstacles are challenging on their own without the added burden of racial bias affecting medical care.

Throughout all the discussions of health care and people’s access to it, we fail to acknowledge that even those with access to health care do not receive adequate treatment. Racial disparities are built into all institutions that affect people in the workplace, in the classroom and even in the hospital room.

I grow weary of reading more and more articles about black women dying, when their deaths could have easily been prevented. Thinking about Porter’s untimely death, and the slight possibility that her death could have been prevented is haunting. My mother was lucky. Porter may not have been.

I hope the greatest takeaway from this article is not Kim Porter, or my mother, or even my own story.

I hope this article moves people to reevaluate their place in society; to recognize that their pain may never be doubted.

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