Viewpoint: Black patients face racism in end-of-life care

Physicians must do more to ensure the proper treatment of African American patients in end-of-life care, Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD, a palliative medicine and critical care physician at Oakland, Calif.-based Highland Hospital, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Four takeaways from the article:

1. Americans of color have historically suffered from poorer healthcare services than their white counterparts, Dr. Zitter wrote. They are also often undertreated for pain, with one study at an Atlanta emergency room showing 74 percent of white patients received pain medications for bone fractures compared with 57 percent of African Americans.

2. On the other hand, African Americans often receive too much treatment at the end of life. They are more likely to die attached to machines compared to white people.

3. Dr. Zitter, who is white, mainly cares for African American patients. She says her patients often distrust the healthcare system and physicians, who are mostly white.

4. To improve interactions with African American patients, Dr. Zitter wrote white physicians can partner with African American members of the hospital staff. The presence of African American hospital workers can help white physicians establish trust with their patients. White physicians can also pray with patients for whom faith is important.

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