Science  /  Video

The US Medical System is Still Haunted by Slavery

Medicine’s dark history helps explain why black mothers are dying at alarming rates.

As the high rates of maternal mortality in the US continue to concern researchers, a new ProPublica report digs into one factor in this alarming trend. According to the CDC, black mothers giving birth in the US die at three to four times the rate of white mothers. That’s one of the widest racial disparities in medicine today.

While many of the inequalities in medicine can be attributed to economic factors like access to good health care, studies have shown minority patients tend to receive a lower quality of care than non-minorities, even when they have the same types of health insurance and the same ability to pay for care.
So how do we better understand this divide? History is usually a good place to start. In this installment of Vox and ProPublica’s collaboration, we lay out some of the dark history of race and women’s medicine. From the experimentation on slaves for medical science to the forced sterilization campaigns in black and poor communities, the vestiges of abuse continue to haunt the medical system, and give context to current racial disparities.