ACCORDING TO THE Equality Act of 2010, discrimination in health care is defined as unfair treatment by a healthcare provider based on characteristics such as age, disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender or pregnancy. In the United States, this definition can be extended to include insurance, or the way a patient can or can not pay for their medical care and treatment.
Although doctors, nurses and other health care professionals take an oath to treat all patients fairly, health care discrimination does still take place and at higher instances for women and Black women, according to cardiac intensive care nurse, Brittany Lincoln*. She believes that discrimination in healthcare affects these groups more frequently because medicine is predominantly a white male-dominated and taught industry, leading to the presence of implicit bias.
Her views align with those of a student doctor, Melanie Rae*, who has witnessed discrimination both as a healthcare provider and patient. Rae explains that healthcare discrimination is the direct result of both implicit and overt biases, structural racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, that has been bred into the core curriculum, beginning in undergraduate premedical studies. Combined with factors such as perceived education levels, socioeconomic status and insurance coverage, Black women are routinely getting the short end of the stick from their physicians.
Black women are generally seen as strong individuals, and while this may be true, this belief has also put an innumerable amount of women at a disadvantage in terms of the quality of care they are given at hospitals, emergency rooms and doctor's offices.
Lincoln explains that while hysteria is no longer a medically accepted diagnosis, it has been replaced with a new way to dismiss patients: anxiety. In her experience, women of all races and sizes are more likely to be diagnosed as anxious the moment they enter the hospital, leading to a delay in care.
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