Pulling The Plug In Seriously Ill Patients—It’s Often A Matter Of Race

In the US, Black patients often receive significantly less medical care than similarly sick white patients. Black patients have less access to primary and subspecialty care; they’re less likely to receive flu and pneumonia vaccinations. When they do receive care, it is often of lower quality. Yet when Black patients experience a significant traumatic brain injury, they often receive more aggressive care than white patients.

That’s what my colleague, Theresa Williamson, showed in an article published in JAMA Surgery. Williamson is a neurosurgeon at the Mass General Hospital. When she trained at Duke, we collaborated on a study of patients who were admitted to hospitals with severe traumatic brain injuries—a fall, a car accident, or a violent assault created so much blunt force against the skull that the victims lost consciousness, with a risk of imminent death from bleeding or swelling of the brain.

Why do Black patients receive more aggressive care after traumatic brain injury? Williamson’s study can’t answer that question. But I would guess that many Black families are suspicious when, mere hours after their loved one is admitted to the hospital, a bunch of (largely non-Black) physicians start talking about whether it’s time to pull the plug.

A lifetime of healthcare deprivation and now doctors want to withdraw their loved ones ventilator?

Generations of healthcare disparities, and the surgeon doesn’t want to drain blood from a loved one’s skull?


To read the full article, please visit Forbes.