Accidental Communities: Race, Emergency Medicine, and the Problem of PolyHeme ®

American Journal of Bioethics 6 (3):7-17 (2006)
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Abstract

This article focuses on emergency medical care in black urban populations, suggesting that the classification of a ?community? within clinical trial language is problematic. The article references a cultural history of black Americans with pre-hospital emergency medical treatment as relevant to contemporary emergency medicine paradigms. Part I explores a relationship between ?autonomy? and ?community.? The idea of community emerges as a displacement for the ethical principle of autonomy precisely at the moment that institutionalized medicine focuses on diversity. Part II examines a clinical trial for the blood substitute PolyHeme? (Northfield Laboratories, Inc., Evanston, IL). It illustrates the ways in which bias in research paradigms and Institutional Review Board decisions attach to the notion and utility of the language of ?community.? The conclusion's contemporary anecdote makes apparent the vitality of the issues of prehospital emergency medical care and the ways in which decisions and practices fall too easily into a narrative of culturally biased treatment

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