Racial Disparities Against Black and Brown Women In Healthcare

Me'Shell Baylor MSHS
4 min readFeb 24, 2023

Of all forms of inequality injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane — Dr. Martin Luther King

Over the last couple of years, it has been apparent that black and brown women are losing the fight for quality treatment in healthcare. Women of color have been subjected to inequality of medical treatment by doctors who have taken medical oaths to do no harm and serve every individual no matter what race or color. Black and brown women in the United States have undergone so much injustice in the past regarding medical care that it is still impacting them today. In the 21st century, the ongoing fight continues for women of color to receive quality health care in primary and maternal health.

According to National Center For Health Statistics, maternal mortality has increased among black women by 55.3 percent and 12.5 percent in Hispanic women in childbirth but the question that is continuously asked is why are women of color still suffering in inequality of treatment in all ranges of healthcare compared to white women? February 10, 2023, a TicTok video went viral showing Dr. Rachel Oliver M.D in a bar in Idaho ranting about minority women she treats in her clinical practice calling them “stupid & fat”. The video caused an uproar, patients treated by the doctor were in shock that her true feelings emerged about the population of people she serves.

One blogger wrote, “ Our pregnant and Hispanic patients deserve better. Idaho deserves better”. On February 12, Dr. Oliver’s treasury department suspended her from the clinic issuing a formal apology. This form of racism is committed by the doctors who have taken oaths to serve the community of people regardless of color. In 2015 Ethel Easter a Texas woman recorded her hernia surgery and was utterly distraught after hearing her surgeon and staff discuss her body, race, and make candid jokes about her while under anesthesia. Easter later filed a lawsuit against the doctor and his practice.

Black and brown women of color go unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged in maternal care and in pain management . Dating back to the 1840s when Dr. J Marion Sims known as the father of gynecology medically experimented on female slaves and immigrants without administering pain medication, or anesthesia during the operation. The women could not refuse, because in the eye of the system they were property while dying from failed complications under his hands. By the 20th century, it was deemed that his means of medical exploration were barbaric and dehumanizing.

Women of color are often ignored if they state they are in pain. On March 9, 2007, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was taken to Martin Luther King Hospital. Edith cried out for staff to help her but no one came to her aid. Video surveillance shows Rodriguez sliding down to the floor in agonizing pain while laying on the ground for over 30 minutes as janitorial staff cleaned around her lifeless body. When staff finally came to realize that Rodriguez was deceased. Staff implied that Rodriguez’s substance use was the cause of death which was untrue. The cause of death was due to untreated gastrointestinal perforation. Gastrointestinal perforation is the dysfunction of a developed hole within the wall of a body organ. As the fight continues what can we do when our quality of care is not being acknowledged? What do we do when we have been denied the quality of healthcare due to discrimination?

Here are some helpful tips on healthcare advocacy

  1. Contact Your Health Provider: Every healthcare has a complaints department or an Ombudsman. The department of healthcare services has a department that you can reach out to if you have any problems.

2. Request A Healthcare Advocate: If you feel that your voice is not being heard you can request an advocate to assist on your behalf.

3. Locate Your Consumer Complaints Department: There is a phrase that goes if it is not in print it does not exist anything that happens make sure that you document and write it down for your protection.

4. Seek Legal Counsel: If the action against you has been so impactful due to bias, discrimination, or racism seek legal counsel that will also act on your behalf.

5. Read: When being treated in any hospital read your laws on your healthcare rights. HIPPAA ( Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects all patients and details what all patients rights are !

6. Advocate: Your voice matters no one should ever discriminate against an individual’s right to receive healthcare services due to race. In the face of any controversy or racial discrimination use your voice to fight!

This fight has been a continuing process as we continue to move forward. Speak up if you notice or see injustice in the healthcare field because you never know when it can be someone you love.

Reference

Youtube Video

Rachel Oliver MD fat shaming pregnant women — YouTube

Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2020

Vital Statistics Rapid Release, Number 015 (July 2021) (cdc.gov)

Key Facts on Health and Health Care by Race and Ethnicity | KFF

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Me'Shell Baylor MSHS

Author of I’m A Little Big Brother 2016 editor’s choice LA Parent Magazine for Entering the World of Oz with Justin Author of poem To All the mothers!