Bioethics, Race, and Contempt

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 18 (1):13-22 (2021)
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Abstract

The U.S. healthcare system has a long history of displaying racist contempt toward Black people. From medical schools’ use of enslaved bodies as cadavers to the widespread hospital practice of reporting suspected drug users who seek medical help to the police, the institutional practices and policies that have shaped U.S. healthcare systems as we know them cannot be minimized as coincidence. Rather, the very foundations of medical discovery, diagnosis, and treatment are built on racist contempt for Black people and have become self-perpetuating. Yet, I argue that bioethics and bioethicists have a role in combatting racism. However, in order to do so, bioethicists have to understand the workings of contemptuous racism and how that particular form of racism manifests in U.S. healthcare institutions. Insofar as justice is part of the core mission of bioethics, then antiracism must also be part of the mission of bioethics.

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Yolonda Wilson
Howard University