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Skin turning blue is racist and needs decolonising.

(60 Posts)
POGS Sun 23-Aug-20 17:27:52

www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/patients-turning-blue-racist-medical-school-a4527266.html

The University of Bristol Medical School has announced it is pioneering "antiracist" methods of teaching ( PA )

A leading medical school has said the way doctors are trained in Britain is inherently racist and it plans to make alterations to a curriculum that it says “needs decolonising”.

Dr Joseph Hartland, part of the team heading up the University of Bristol Medical School, has said long-established parts of the UK medical curriculum, such as teaching life-or-death clinical signs, are racist as they focus on teaching students how the signs present in white people.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Hartland put forward the example of patients turning blue if short of breath, a sign which does not apply for people with dark skin.

"Historically, medical education was written by white middle-class men, so there is an inherent racism in medicine that means it exists to serve white patients above all others,” he said.

"Essentially we are teaching students how to recognise a life-or-death clinical sign largely in white people.”
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Now I accept that the colour of skin will denote the need for varying diagnosis but surely the answer should be simply to ensure any evidence of the variences are included in the training NOT to call it racism that needs decolonising. If that is not how our doctors are taught then why the hell not.

But racism?

Would the same doctors think it is racist to train doctors stating the obvious Vitiligo causes white patches and is not so easy to detect in white skin as opposed to those of darker skin?

Can we train our doctors to say Jaundice gives a yellow tinge to skin and eyes ? Well the answer is no it is racist according to a doctor interviewed with LBC host Nick Ferrari. I couldn't believe what I was hearing coming from an intelligent women.

Note to the medical profession do your job and train future doctors what they need to know and that includes how to assess illness in All skin groups and races which by their very nature may well vary accordingly and leave politics out of it. If you have not been advising future doctors accordingly that is not racism that is ineptitude on your part, in my opinion.

Sometimes in life common sense is all that is required for understanding how, why things evolve. When it comes to " Historically, medical education was written by white middle-class men, so there is an inherent racism in medicine that means it exists to serve white patients above all others,” that is a fact of how, who and when medical studies took place, medical knowledge was formed and who they were able to experiment on for the most part.

If our multi cultural society has indeed meant the medical profession does not train doctors to understand the obvious effects of skin colour then I am shocked but I do not believe that for one minute.

SueDonim Sun 23-Aug-20 18:13:10

My dd has just finished medical school. Learning how conditions affect different people can be a problem in that if there are no volunteers for role play training, (Getting volunteers from different sections of society is a problem in itself) they can’t see for themselves what it looks like. In dermatology particularly, they had to learn on prosthetic skin because they had no real life examples available to them.

They do learn that certain illnesses affect different sections of society in different ways eg breast cancer in Caucasian women v black women.

Galaxy Sun 23-Aug-20 18:13:34

I think it's quite possible that is the case, in the same way that autism and heart attacks are missed in women because they present completely differently from the way they present in men which has been the default.

SueDonim Sun 23-Aug-20 18:15:04

V true, Galaxy. It’s the same with most drugs, which are trialled on men and takes no account of how women are affected.

FarNorth Sun 23-Aug-20 18:19:57

Would the same doctors think it is racist to train doctors stating the obvious Vitiligo causes white patches and is not so easy to detect in white skin as opposed to those of darker skin?

It would be racist to completely ignore the existence of white skin in connection with this condition.

So, yes, training has been racist but is now, I hope, being upgraded.

MawB2 Sun 23-Aug-20 19:11:36

I do agree- it is not racism that needs to be addressed, but an aspect of diagnostic training where a former “short cut” no longer fully applies.
Did doctors who trained in countries where the population is non- white receive the same training in diagnosis?

And it has nothing to do with “colonialism” either.
Honestly, some bandwagons have to be allowed to rumble by without everybody jumping on them.

vegansrock Sun 23-Aug-20 19:26:21

Many studies on heart disease are based on research studies based on men. They ignore the fact that heart disease may present differently in women.

Lolo81 Sun 23-Aug-20 21:08:32

I’m sorry if I’m missing something here and would happily have a think about any further explanation, but I genuinely don’t see the issue with labelling this as institutional racism.
That’s not to say that any of the people teaching, learning or performing medicine are racist in any way, but simply pointing out that the basis of curriculum is based off of studies/practices that are predominantly directed at a white populations. That in and of itself is racism.
Most facets of academia in the western world do have an ethnocentric perspective. If these teachers and the students are looking to evolve the curriculum to make it more representative of the population and to ensure people of all ethic backgrounds are treated with the same level of knowledge and skill then surely that’s a good thing?

Is it purely the label of racism that people are finding offensive here?

Galaxy Sun 23-Aug-20 21:11:18

I agree, I cant really think of a clearer example of racism than getting poorer health care when dying because of the colour of your skin.

maddyone Mon 24-Aug-20 00:00:53

Totally agree with MawB2.

Eloethan Mon 24-Aug-20 01:09:13

I think perhaps the reason why some people take issue with this is because racism is often seen as an individual and deliberate act of overt or covert malice/aggression.

I think it is sometimes possible to see institutional and individual racism as arising from ignorance or a lack of understanding, rather than from malice. However, if it is pointed out that, because of their sex, colour, age, etc, some people are being disadvantaged in some way, then it is, I think, racist to imply that such a view is too ridiculous to seriously consider.

Summerlove Mon 24-Aug-20 02:04:32

Lolo81

I’m sorry if I’m missing something here and would happily have a think about any further explanation, but I genuinely don’t see the issue with labelling this as institutional racism.
That’s not to say that any of the people teaching, learning or performing medicine are racist in any way, but simply pointing out that the basis of curriculum is based off of studies/practices that are predominantly directed at a white populations. That in and of itself is racism.
Most facets of academia in the western world do have an ethnocentric perspective. If these teachers and the students are looking to evolve the curriculum to make it more representative of the population and to ensure people of all ethic backgrounds are treated with the same level of knowledge and skill then surely that’s a good thing?

Is it purely the label of racism that people are finding offensive here?

To me, it is institutional racism.

People hear “racism” and get so up in arms and defensive, that they can’t seem to see it for what it is.

Whitewavemark2 Mon 24-Aug-20 03:05:17

I can’t see the issue here.

As mawb2 stated

Some bandwagons should be allowed to trundle by.

MaizieD Mon 24-Aug-20 09:04:41

Is it purely the label of racism that people are finding offensive here

It is for me, yes.

I think of racism as being a purposeful act intended to demean.

I don't think that the white-centric study and teaching of medicine covers that (any more than the failure to accommodate women in research studies is deliberately sexist). I think that the racism occurs when people are made aware that their practice is discriminatory but carry on regardless.

Galaxy Mon 24-Aug-20 09:08:28

It's from a society that treats male as the default, its sexism whether deliberate or not.

Lolo81 Mon 24-Aug-20 09:18:45

MaizieD - thanks for that insight. I’d say in response that you’re describing racist behaviour.
Not all racism is behavioural.
Racism exists everywhere whether or not people choose to acknowledge it or to describe it as a bandwagon!
As I said previously western society does suffer hugely from institutional racism, I’d also add that institutional sexism is equally as prevalent. Because the institutions within our society were built by white men at a period in our history where they held all the power. That doesn’t mean they were bad people - they were of their time, just as those proposing to make institutional changes in this generation are making the best of their own time. And to do this they need to recognise the flaws in the system in order to address them.

It’s bizarre to me that wanting equality for all people regardless of sex, gender or ethnicity seems to bring to the fore some very dismissive attitudes.

Galaxy Mon 24-Aug-20 09:20:30

Thankyou Lolo that expressed everything I wanted to say!

MaizieD Mon 24-Aug-20 09:59:03

MaizieD - thanks for that insight. I’d say in response that you’re describing racist behaviour.

I'm not sure if you're approving or disapproving of what I said.

I'm not sure where I stand in this judgement. Am I among the dismissive ones?

It’s bizarre to me that wanting equality for all people regardless of sex, gender or ethnicity seems to bring to the fore some very dismissive attitudes.

FarNorth Mon 24-Aug-20 10:19:20

Well said Lolo81.

It's appalling that Western medicine has failed to take account of a huge proportion of the people it is meant to be for.

Madgran77 Mon 24-Aug-20 10:29:52

"Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organisation"

This is the OED description of institutional racism. The medical training that only includes turning blue is an example.

Individual racism is prejudice against specific groups or individuals because they are a member of that group. Or assuming specific characteristics because of membership of a group. Tgat is nit yge same as institutional racism but can impact on it if decisions are taken by prejudiced individuals.

Candelle Mon 24-Aug-20 10:47:01

Hang on a minute... surely the doctors who wrote text books, trained future doctors etc., etc., were white because our country was white. Their population was almost exclusively white and everything was therefore written up with reference to Caucasian people.

Now we have a multi-ethnic population, yes of course doctors need to be trained on how to spot signs and symptoms in non-white patients. I assumed that this to be the case.

Text books already written and prior training given etc.,was/is not racist, it was how our world was at that time.

To jump on any 'colonial/racist' band wagon is mad.

Surely training of diagnosis in every sector of society is now mandatory? I will find out...

FarNorth Mon 24-Aug-20 10:52:10

And everyone in white society was also male, so no need to give any thought to females - whatever those might be.

I don't share your faith Candelle that training will take account of every sector of society, but am happy to await your findings.

maddyone Mon 24-Aug-20 11:08:49

I will ask my daughter and son in law, who are doctors, when they return from their well deserved holiday in Norway.
Can others who have medics in the family please ask them? Then we’d know the truth of it, and what is being taught today. It’s pointless talking about how medics were trained in the past, it’s simply not relevant since almost a hundred per of the population were white. Now we have many people who are not white and so it’s extremely relevant.

SueDonim Mon 24-Aug-20 11:18:12

I wrote this earlier in the thread. ^ My dd has just finished medical school. Learning how conditions affect different people can be a problem in that if there are no volunteers for role play training, (Getting volunteers from different sections of society is a problem in itself) they can’t see for themselves what it looks like. In dermatology particularly, they had to learn on prosthetic skin because they had no real life examples available to them.^

Some medical schools (I’d hope all, but I don’t know) are aware of these differences but I’m not sure how fully they are incorporated into teaching.

SueDonim Mon 24-Aug-20 11:18:42

Oh, my italicisation didn’t work. confused