Thursday’s Thoughts: Hospitals Are Harming Black Patients Day 18

Photo by Samuel Ramos on Unsplash

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.  A PubMed and a google search using medical errors and race yielded nothing about race or the demographics of medical errors. I want to do a deep dive into who is dying from medical errors. While I did not find anything specific to race and medical errors, I found confirmation that Black patients receive discriminatory care. What’s more, it is a safety issue. We are not safe in a hospital environment or primary care setting.  Black patients are at high risk of death or disability when we engage with the healthcare system.

Several, not very good studies attacked the 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study on Unequal Treatment. That study took a “strong” position that many racial disparities in healthcare are “attributable to discrimination by health care providers.” (1)

Number one of the ECRI’s top 10 patient-safety concerns for 2021 was “Racial and ethnic disparities in health care.” “ECRI is a nonprofit organization that studies how to improve patient care by addressing safety concerns across the continuum of care.” (4)

According to Modern Healthcare, this is the first time ECRI has identified racial and ethnic disparities in care as the health safety issue that poses the greatest threat to patients. To address these issues, ECRI advises health systems to establish health equity governance committees and fund organization-wide efforts to resolve racial and ethnic disparities.

The first thing organizations need to do is recognize and accept that racial and ethnic disparities exist, according to Marcus Schabacker, CEO of ECRI. “If you go to a CEO, or a chief medical officer and say, ‘There’s an issue in your hospital,’ they’d say, ‘No, we treat everybody the same.’ You may think so, but the reality is different. There [are] a lot of things that contribute to this inequality, from explicit to implicit biases.” (4)

A fact sheet used to argue against proposals that limit the rights of medical malpractice victims showed that despite racial and ethnic minorities being at high risk of preventable medical errors, there were proposals to restrict their ability to sue doctors and hospitals. I gather the proposals were approved. (3)



Racial and ethnic minorities receive inferior medical treatment by the health care industry and are being subjected to high rates of preventable medical errors. Moreover, racial and ethnic minorities are uninsured more often than non-Hispanic whites, a status that frequently results in substandard care.

As a result, proposals that limit the rights of patients who have been killed or injured due to medical malpractice disproportionately hurt racial and ethnic minorities.(3)

The people who control the levers of healthcare and law know that medical racism exists. Black patients received substandard care, which often resulted in death, as in the case of Dr. Susan Moore and many others or disability as in my case and so many others. It is a safety issue and a public health crisis. However, there is silence and often dismissal medical racism. Why are hospitals harming Black patients? Why? 


  1. Disparities and discrimination in health care coverage: a critique of the Institute of Medicine study
  2. ECRI
  3. Race & Medical Malpractice
  4. The 10 biggest patient safety concerns for 2021, a…





Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

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