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Racial Disparities in the Delivery of Health Care

44 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2012  

Barbara A. Noah

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: January 12, 2012


In this Article the Author attempts to frame the debate about racial justice in the delivery of health care services, first by surveying several examples of such disparities, and then by connecting these examples with the existing legal literature concerning the range of possible remedies for discrimination.

The Author focuses only on the role of conscious and unconscious racial bias in the delivery of care and does not begin to address the larger issue of inadequate access to care at the outset. Improving access to health care for minorities will undoubtedly have a positive effect on these groups' overall health status; however, to the extent that racial bias in the delivery of care exists apart from problems of inadequate access, the disparity in health status between whites and African Americans will no doubt continue.

The Author describes racial disparities in a variety of health care contexts including the utilization of Medicare services, the selection of recipients for cadaveric organ transplantation, access to drug therapy, institutionalization for mental illness, and the representation of racial and ethnic minority groups in clinical research.

The Author suggests potential solutions to the problem of disparate medical care for racial minorities, including possible constitutional and statutory remedies for past victims of disparate treatment, avenues for governmental enforcement of policies prohibiting discrimination, and other approaches for avoiding future inequalities in the delivery of medical services.

Lastly, the Author concludes that prospective approaches, such as education and regulatory responses to patterns of disparate care, provide the most promising avenues for addressing this troubling problem.

Keywords: health care, racial disparities, medical care, health law

Suggested Citation

Noah, Barbara A., Racial Disparities in the Delivery of Health Care (January 12, 2012). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 35, p. 135, 1998. Available at SSRN:

Barbara A. Noah (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States
413-782-1432 (Phone)

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