Trust, Risk, and Race in American Medicine

Hastings Center Report 50 (1):18-26 (2020)
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Trust is a core feature of the physician-patient relationship, and risk is central to trust. Patients take risks when they trust their providers to care for them effectively and appropriately. Not all patients take these risks: some medical relationships are marked by mistrust and suspicion. Empirical evidence suggests that some patients and families of color in the United States may be more likely to mistrust their providers and to be suspicious of specific medical practices and institutions. Given both historical and ongoing oppression and injustice in American medical institutions, such mistrust can be apt. Yet it can also frustrate patient care, leading to family and provider distress. In this paper, I propose one way that providers might work to reestablish trust by taking risks in signaling their own trustworthiness. This interpersonal step is not meant to replace efforts to remedy systemic injustice, but is an immediate measure for addressing mistrust in occurrent cases.
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