Revisiting Death: Implicit Bias and the Case of Jahi McMath
Hastings Center Report, November-December 2018
5 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 31, 2019
On any given day in the United States, disparities in the quality of health care and health outcomes for people of color in comparison to whites are evidenced in American hospitals and clinics. As decades of research show, these disparities are not entirely explained by differences in patient education, insurance status, employment, income, expressed preference for treatments, and severity of disease. It has been a mistake in the bioethics community to approach Jahi McMath’s case merely as a study of brain death—despite its significance for contemporary debate and analysis on that topic. That is, while Jahi McMath’s condition provides a compelling study for analyzing brain death, to ignore the underlying medical treatment, which resulted in her dire status, is not only a folly but also renders her an object. Arguably, circumscribing Jahi McMath’s life status to a question of brain death fails to acknowledge and respond to a chronic, if uncomfortable, bioethics problem in American health care—namely, racial bias and unequal treatment, both real and perceived.
Keywords: implicit bias, race, medical malpractice, quality of care
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation