U.S. study says doctors subconsciously favor whites

Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:55pm EDT
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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Doctors subconsciously favor whites over blacks, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a finding that may explain widespread racial disparities in health care in the United States.

A long line of studies have found that U.S. blacks get inferior care for cancer and a variety of other ailments compared to whites but experts concerned about the disparities have struggled to understand why.

"This supports speculation that subtle race bias may affect health care, but does not imply that it will," said Janice Sabin of the University of Washington in Seattle, who presented the study at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in San Diego.

Sabin said it was too early to know if there was a direct link between the findings and the quality of care delivered to blacks in the United States.

She said the findings reinforce other studies showing racial bias is common in the general population.

"But we have to remember people are not racist if they hold an implicit bias," she said in a statement.

Sabin used data from a study of more than 400,000 people who took an online test between 2004 and 2006 about their attitudes on race.

More than 2,500 of the test-takers said they were doctors.

Rather than overt racism, the test looks for subconscious signs of bias by asking a series of questions.   Continued...

<p>Beds lie empty in the emergency room in a file photo. REUTERS/Lee Celano</p>