Harvard-affiliated physicians want to deliver 'preferential care based on race'

The physicians' plan would single out Black and 'Latinx' patients in 'fight for racial justice in medicine.'

Critical Race Theory influenced the physicians' support for 'medical restitution' and 'federal reparations.'

Harvard Medical School instructors Bram Wispelwey and Michelle Morse argue in a Boston Review article that race should be used as a determining factor in how heart failure patients are treated. 

They write that the necessary "proactively antiracist agenda for medicine" should be direct, and the solution they propose could reach patients exactly at the point of care: "a preferential admission option for Black and Latinx heart failure patients to our specialty cardiology service."  

The physicians say that “medical restitution” should be part of an overall push to make society more equitable. “Anti Racist [sic] institutional change is essential to supplement federal reparations," they write.

[RELATED: Lehigh University prof argues that the field of public health sustains ‘White supremacy’]

Both Wispelwey and and Morse work with Brigham and Women's Hospital, a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital.

Noting that a disproportionate number of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital were people of color, the physicians wrote that “our effort to understand and correct this disparity has led us to rethink the nature of the fight for racial justice in medicine.”

The pair then analyzed ten years’ worth of hospital data, which revealed that white patients were indeed “more likely to be admitted to the cardiology service” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and that Black and Latino patients with the same cardiac issues were disproportionately likely to end up in the general medicine department rather than the cardiology one. 

The professors' plan seeks to influence healthcare professionals' decision-making. Their system, they write, "will include a flag in our electronic medical record and admissions system suggesting that providers admit Black and Latinx heart failure patients to cardiology, rather than rely on provider discretion or patient self-advocacy to determine whether they should go to cardiology or general medicine." 

The professors pass over more common elements of anti-racist efforts, including "implicit bias training, diversity and inclusion efforts, and the adoption of supposedly objective checklist-style clinical criteria for decision making," claiming those tools do not go far enough to fix the problem. 

“Our path to this realization, as with nearly all advancements in social medicine, took us outside our discipline — through the field of critical race theory (CRT), in particular,” they continued, arguing that “colorblind law” effectively “reduces the effectiveness of traditional civil rights laws, while rendering discriminatory actions more oppressive than ever.” 

[RELATED: Brown University students overwhelmingly vote in favor of reparations]

The hospital's media relations manager Mark Murphy referred Campus Reform to a statement clarifying that the professors’ position does not represent the hospital’s official policies. The statement denies that the hospital will offer race-based preferential treatment.

Though the statement acknowledged that “health inequity today continues to be a patient safety and public health issue,” it clarified that Brigham and Women’s Hospital will not offer preferential care based on race. 

Campus Reform reached out to Wispelwey and Morse for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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