Good Racial Profiling?

medicalcareThere’s a big difference between the government denying or giving someone a job or college admission based on race and factoring a patient’s race into determining treatment. Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist, racially profiles when treating individuals (emphasis added):

Almost every day at the Washington drug clinic where I work as a psychiatrist, race plays a useful diagnostic role. When I prescribe Prozac to a patient who is African-American, I start at a lower dose, 5 or 10 milligrams instead of the usual 10-to-20 milligram dose. I do this in part because clinical experience and pharmacological research show that blacks metabolize antidepressants more slowly than Caucasians and Asians. As a result, levels of the medication can build up and make side effects more likely. To be sure, not every African-American is a slow metabolizer of antidepressants; only 40 percent are. But the risk of provoking side effects like nausea, insomnia or fuzzy-headedness in a depressed person — someone already terribly demoralized who may have been reluctant to take medication in the first place — is to worsen the patient’s distress and increase the chances that he will flush the pills down the toilet. So I start all black patients with a lower dose, then take it from there.

As we learn more about human biodiversity, or at least acknowledge it, it’s obvious that racial differences are more than skin-deep. Whether cultural or genetic, some diseases and conditions affect one racial group more than others. Laws that ban racial preferences in government employment, education, and contracting typically contain a medical exception for racial considerations in government health institutions.

Race-based medicine involves treating and curing, restoring good health, etc., while “affirmative action” involves obsessing over so-called diversity that comes at the expense of someone else’s rights.

Breast cancer, in particular, is a disease that presents as more virulent in black women. The second leading cause of death among women, according to the CDC, breast cancer affects black women disproportionately. Faster-growing and harder-to-treat cancers and lower follow-up and treatment rates contribute to why they die at a higher rate. Studies suggest that black men are more likely to have faster-growing prostate tumors that spread. They’re over twice as likely to die from the disease. Does human biodiversity play a larger role than we realize? Lifestyles affect health, but these biological disparities certainly aren’t a coincidence.

Photo credit: Christiana Care (Creative Commons) – Some Rights Reserved

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