Why so many Black Americans mistrust the health care system

Created Equal
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Dr. Susan Moore documented her final days of life in raw, emotional Facebook posts.

The Indiana doctor claimed fellow physicians ignored her COVID-19 symptoms and threatened to send her home.

“You have to show proof that something is wrong with you for you to get the medicine,” Dr. Moore said in a video. “I put forward and I maintain, if I was white I wouldn’t have to go through that.”

Dr. Moore died days after her discharge from the hospital. While the Indiana University Hospital Health System denied mistreatment in her case, Dr. Moore’s story of feeling ignored by medical professionals resonated with Black Americans across the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed America’s long history of unequal medical treatment for Black patients.

“COVID killed Black people in this country at two times the rate of white people,” Governor Andrew Cuomo recently pointed out.

Dr. Sampson Davis runs a coronavirus testing site in Harlem. During his 20 years of providing health care in African American communities, Dr. Davis has witnessed patient after patient reluctant to seek the medical help they need, or enroll in clinical trials, worried the care they receive will be impacted by the color of their skin.

“Grandparents, our great grandparents, have passed along mistrust of the health care system.” Dr. Davis explained.

As the nations rolls out the coronavirus vaccine, a study conducted this fall by the NAACP and COVID Collaborative found just 14% of African Americans trust a vaccine will be safe and only 18% trust it will be effective.

“I see the hesitation with African Americans and Latino Americans taking the vaccination because of the historical factors,” Dr. Davis explained

For Ron Lacks, the decision of whether or not to take the vaccine is a difficult one. His grandmother was Henrietta Lacks. In 1951, she went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer treatment. Without her knowledge, doctors collected a sample of Lack’s cancer cells. Those cells were replicated in a lab and used to develop breakthrough treatments and vaccines for Polio, AIDS, Leukemia and coronavirus.

“The family tried to find out more about it, and doors was really shut in our faces,” Ron Lacks told PIX11 in an interview.

Before Henrietta Lacks, Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama were also used for medical research without their consent.

“There were 600 African American men, who have syphilis and they were unknowingly included as subjects in this longitudinal research study,” explained Dr. Peter Millet of Meharry Medical College.

The men were told they would be treated for “bad blood” but were instead denied care for 40 years.

Of those men, 28 died from syphilis and 100 more died from related complications

The Tuskegee Experiment was “one of the most infamous studies that contributes to this hesitancy of African Americans to have this trust in medicine,” Dr. Millet explained.

Marc Morial, national president of The Urban League believes ” that history cannot be ignored or dismissed.”

Morial is now co-chair of a new vaccine equity task force commissioned by Governor Cuomo to ensure the racial disparities in coronavirus testing and treatment do not persist with the vaccine.

“I understand the cynicism and skepticism; it is not without cause,” Governor Cuomo recently said in a message to Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. “The Tuskegee Experiment is a terrible stain on the soul of this nation. The system does have biases and injustices, but that is not true in the case of this vaccine.”

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