Author Harriet Washington spoke at Florida A&M University about her book “Medical Apartheid,” a book that extensively delves into the mistreatment of blacks by the medical field.
Washington explored how the historical treatment of blacks in medical research has greatly contributed to the substandard healthcare of a disproportionate number of blacks today.
Washington said she addressed medical issues within the black community that are ignored and covered up.
“This was not on the radar, people didn’t talk about it, from the beginning they were more interested in the value of the research, rather than the damage to the subjects,” Washington said. “But this can’t be put behind us. It still colors the black experience today.”
In the book Washington describes forced surgeries without anesthesia, deceptive infections with an assortment of diseases and even a case where the subject was stripped of his veins.
Maybe even more disturbing was the rationale behind these acts; researchers judged blacks to be “inferior” and not able to feel pain as much as whites. To excuse what they were doing the researchers attempted to dehumanize their black subjects. Many of these researchers have been revered and seen as pioneers in their respective fields.
Washington listed the names of the researchers who conducted the studies, and shed light on the heinous nature of their misdeeds. The suffering they were responsible for will not be forgotten.
The disparity in healthcare between blacks and whites is an issue deeply rooted in racism. The trend of inequality is evident even when comparing blacks and whites with the same socioeconomic background and insurance coverage.
“Unfortunately African Americans tend to get lower healthcare because of racial discrimination and this can serve to create miscommunication, the community is being undeserved and we must find a way to bridge the gap,” said Matthew Ryder, a cancer care specialist for the American Cancer Society.
In the latest report by the American Cancer Society the statistics show that in comparison to any other race, blacks are more likely to develop and die of cancer.
Not only does the issue of disparity in healthcare remain a contemporary issue, but also so is targeted experimentation. Subjects in certain positions like prisoners, patients and soldiers are being pressured into taking part of experiments, researchers are turning to developing nations for subjects, and blacks are still being used for harmful experiment.
“The information [in the book] needs to be told. The Tuskegee experiment only scratches the surface of what has been done, there must be a continued spread of the message and knowledge about what has happened, things going on behind the scene must be exposed,” said Cynthia Harris of the FAMU Institute of Public Health.
Washington said she does not believe that an apology will be enough to right the wrongs committed by the various researchers and the affiliated institutions, but an admission of culpability would be more fitting.
“Apologies are fashionable nowadays; apologies can be a way to escape,” Washington said.