Does Race Play a Role in Medical Malpractice?When it comes to health care, we hope that all patients are treated equally. Unfortunately, the data shows that this is not the case and that there are vast racial disparities in the healthcare field.
Many of these discrepancies can be attributed to implicit bias. Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that unconsciously affect our actions and understandings. Researchers assessing implicit bias found a significant implicit preference for white Americans in relation to black Americans among physicians of all racial and ethnic groups except for black physicians. It is believed that this implicit bias has an impact on the medical treatment received by minority patients.


Medical misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare provider delays, completely misses or provides a patient with an incorrect diagnosis. Medical misdiagnosis is a common form of medical error and the third leading cause of death. We’ve examined how gender plays a role in the rate of medical misdiagnosis, but can a patient’s race or ethnicity impact a proper diagnosis? Multiple studies indicate that minorities are more likely to be misdiagnosed with certain conditions.
A Johns Hopkins study found that minorities who appeared at an emergency room with stroke symptoms were significantly (20-30%) more likely than white patients to be misdiagnosed. Black patients with chest pains are also less likely to be referred for advanced cardiac care. In addition, minorities are frequently misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions. There is also evidence that non-white individuals are less likely to be believed when they complain of pain symptoms and receive less adequate pain treatment than their white counterparts.

Discrepancies in Care

Implicit racial bias can make a health care provider less likely to take a patient’s complaints seriously. A landmark 2003 study found that minority individuals receive fewer procedures, diagnostic tests, and lower quality medical care than white individuals. This was true even after adjustments were made for the type of healthcare facility and insurance. Minorities had worse medical outcomes than their white counterparts as a result of substandard care. Things haven’t improved much. Minorities are still more likely to have negative health outcomes.
Racially biased treatment of patients can lead to medical errors and a failure to properly treat medical conditions. Regardless of a patient’s race or ethnicity, health care professionals are required to adhere to the appropriate standard of care. Any failure to do so may be medical malpractice and should not be tolerated.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you believe you have received improper medical care, you should have an experienced attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping New Yorkers injured by medical malpractice. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.