Death by Disparity (how black people are dying at an alarming rate)

By Antisia King


As a Lupus survivor, I spent more than my fair share of time in the hospital. And it doesn't take much to see the differences in treatment between races, its as subtle as how much time they spend with you or as obvious as having to explain your issue over and over because they weren't paying attention.

I have spent a lot of time in the hospital. Most of the time the doctors were trying to figure out a diagnosis, it took about a year and a half for the doctors to really take my symptoms seriously. Just a few more blood tests and there it was, Lupus. I feel like if I would’ve known a little earlier, maybe we could’ve stopped it. But my doctors wanted to watch and wait, but my question was always "wait for what?! Until something happens..."

Traditional doctors are not preventative doctors, they just want to fix the problem once it is obvious with less of a focus on preventing the problem before it is exacerbated. At one point I had to change my doctor because I felt as if she wasn’t listening to me, which was frustrating. When I started to take matters into my own hands and doing my own research, I requested certain blood tests and demanding answers. I certainly felt that being a Black Woman I wasn't being heard. I attribute my recovery to the fact that I took matters into my own hands. I am now Lupus free, my kidneys are functioning normally and I no longer have to take medication.

Somehow it doesn't seem that Black Lives have the same value in health care as other races and people are dying as a result.

Recently a family friend was hospitalized after losing a massive amount of blood. He happened to be Jehovah’s Witness, so a blood transfusion was out of the question. It is against their beliefs and a Jehovah's Witness would rather die than submit to a blood transfusion. I watched day after day as the Doctors tried to convince him to take blood. He was getting more and more frustrated with the situation and honestly, we still don't understand how he pulled through.

The situation became so grim that the Jehovah's Witness organization sent what they call a medical liaison in to help consult on his care. He noticed that they hadn't done anything but offer blood. After he made his recommendations our loved one began to recover immediately, two days later he was well enough to go home.


After it was clear that he was getting better one of the nurses, an African American, secretly told me that they suggested this exact course of action to the Doctor and he refused to listen. She went on to tell me “They don't treat Black People the same," as her eyes filled with tears.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Women of color have it the worst of all.

Maternal mortality and injury rates are higher for Black females, regardless of income or education level.

Superstar Tennis Pro Serena Williams in an interview with the BBC said, “Doctors aren’t listening to us!" after nearly dying giving birth to her daughter, Olympia. Because she knew her body, she knew something was very wrong. She was right and she experienced a pulmonary embolism after giving birth via C-section.

“I was in a really fortunate situation where I know my body well, and I am who I am, and I told the doctor: ‘I don’t feel right, something’s wrong.’ She immediately listened,” Williams told BBC. “She was great. I had a wonderful, wonderful doctor. Unfortunately a lot of African-Americans and black people don’t have the same experience that I’ve had.”

The facts are:
1. Maternal mortality and injury rates are higher for Black females, irrespective of income or education level: Black women are 3–4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women. Black women are also 3–4 times more likely to suffer from a severe disability resulting from childbirth than White women (source).

2. Black women experience disparities in infertility rates, stigmatization, and access to fertility care: Infertility affects at least 12 percent of women of childbearing age, and studies suggest this number doubles for Black women in the US. However, while more than 20 percent of Black women may experience infertility, only 8 percent of them seek medical help to get pregnant compared to 15 percent of White women. (source)

3. Health conditions that disproportionately impact Black women, such as uterine fibroids, receive very little government research funding: Estimates reveal that nearly a quarter of Black women between the ages of 18 and 30 have fibroids — compared with 7 percent of white women. By age 35, that number increases to 60 percent. However, NIH annual funding for the condition is $17 million — compared to $86 million for cystic fibrosis, which impacts far fewer people each year (though the great majority of those impacted are Caucasian).

4. Black women are underrepresented in clinical trials that require consent and are overrepresented in studies that do not: While all women may be underrepresented in clinical research and trials for new drugs, this situation is even more critical for Black women. In fact, Black women (who as we mentioned are disproportionately impacted by uterine fibroids) only comprise 15 percent of participants in published clinical trials for the condition. (source) In addition, data from the FDA shows that in trials for 24 of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015, fewer than 5 percent of participants were Black. This diversity in study patients is needed to ensure that new drugs are both safe and effective for all patients. (source). Unfortunately, in contrast, Black participants are disproportionately over-represented in studies that do not require consent. (source)

5. Black women are significantly underrepresented in key biomedical research datasets, including genomic data repositories and related analyses: Nearly 80 percent of all individuals included in genomic studies are of European descent. While this may be a decrease from 20 years ago (when it was as high as 96 percent), this change is mostly driven by a higher number of studies being done in Asia on populations of Asian ancestry. The increase in participants of African ancestry has barely shifted in the last two decades. (source)

Serena was one of the luck ones because her Doctor listened. Take the case of Dr. Susan Moore. She died of the Coronavirus. While she was in the hospital she made a video December 4th that has been viewed millions of times where she complained about racist medical care. In a Facebook post Dr. Moore repeatedly said she asked for medication, scans and routine checks while admitted at a hospital in Carmel, Indiana. She noted a white doctor in particular who seemingly dismissed her pain and said she didn't trust the hospital.

“I put forth and maintain, if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that," in her video she stated “This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves." She was released from the hospital three days after making the video. At home her conditioned worsened and after another hospital stay at different hospital Dr. Moore died on December 20th. (the heartbreaking video is posted below)

Even Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke recently with The American Journal of Managed Care® he was asked about health burdens that disproportionately affect Black and other multiracial US communities.

What can we do? We must have very candid conversations with our doctors, be open and honest, make them aware that you know the stats and disparities. Mostly find a doctor who listens to you, don’t trust that just because they have the education they know everything.

It’s your life and you could lose it, also take all the available steps to avoid being sick, eat healthy, exercise on a regular basis and do all this in moderation, but most of all listen to your body and find doctor who’s listening too.