Medical Overtesting and Racial Distrust

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29 (3):273-303 (2019)
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Abstract

The phenomenon of medical overtesting in general, and specifically in the emergency room, is well-known and regarded as harmful to both the patient and the healthcare system. Although the implications of this problem raise myriad ethical concerns, this paper explores the extent to which overtesting might mitigate race-based health inequalities. Given that medical malpractice and error greatly increase when the patients belong to a racial minority, it is no surprise that the mortality rate similarly increases in proportion to white patients. For these populations, an environment that emphasizes medical overtesting may well be the desirable medical environment until care evens out among races and ethnicities; additionally, efforts to lower overtesting in conjunction with a high rate of racist medical mythology may cause harm by lower testing when it is actually warranted. Furthermore, medical overtesting may help to assuage racial distrust. This paper ultimately concludes that an environment of medical overtesting may be less pernicious than the alternative.

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Luke Golemon
University of Arizona

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