The neglect of racism as an ethical issue in health care

J Immigr Minor Health. 2010 Aug;12(4):489-95. doi: 10.1007/s10903-008-9210-y. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Race and racism has been increasingly implicated in known disparities in the health and health care of racial, ethnic and cultural minorities groups. Despite the obvious ethical implications of this observation, racism as an ethical issue per se has been relatively neglected in health care ethics discourse. In this paper consideration is given to addressing the following questions: What is it about racism and racial disparities in health and health care that these command our special moral scrutiny? Why has racism per se tended to be poorly addressed as an ethical issue in health care ethics discourse? And why, if at all, must racism be addressed as an ethical issue in addition to its positioning as a social, political, cultural and legal issue? It is suggested that unless racism is reframed and redressed as a pre-eminent ethical issue by health service providers, its otherwise preventable harmful consequences will remain difficult to identify, anticipate, prevent, manage, and remedy.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethics
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*