29
Jul2020

In this edition of Research Ethics Reading List, we feature books on the intersection of race and research ethics. (Book description copy comes courtesy of each book’s publisher or author website where possible.)

Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care
Dayna Bowen Matthew

“Over 84,000 black and brown lives are needlessly lost each year due to health disparities: the unfair, unjust, and avoidable differences between the quality and quantity of health care provided to Americans who are members of racial and ethnic minorities and care provided to whites. Health disparities have remained stubbornly entrenched in the American health care system—and in Just Medicine Dayna Bowen Matthew finds that they principally arise from unconscious racial and ethnic biases held by physicians, institutional providers, and their patients.”

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Harriet A. Washington

“From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of Black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment... The product of years of prodigious research into medical journals and experimental reports long undisturbed, Medical Apartheid reveals the hidden underbelly of scientific research and makes possible an understanding of the roots of the African American health deficit. At last, it provides the fullest possible context for comprehending the behavioral fallout that has caused Black Americans to view researchers—and indeed the whole medical establishment—with such deep distrust.”

Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
James H. Jones

“From 1932 to 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a non-therapeutic experiment involving over 400 Black male sharecroppers infected with syphilis. The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment. Its purpose was to trace the spontaneous evolution of the disease in order to learn how syphilis affected Black subjects.”

Black and Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism
John Hoberman

Black & Blue (2012) is the first systematic description of how American doctors think about racial differences and how this kind of thinking affects the treatment of their Black patients. The standard studies of medical racism examine past medical abuses of Black people and do not address the racially motivated thinking and behaviors of physicians practicing medicine today. Black & Blue penetrates the physician’s private sphere where racial fantasies and misinformation distort diagnoses and treatments.”

Superior: The Return of Race Science
Angela Saini

Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science. After the horrors of the Nazi regime in World War II, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of intellectual racists and segregationists quietly founded journals and funded research...Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Angela Saini shows us how, again and again, even mainstream scientists cling to the idea that race is biologically real. As our understanding of complex traits like intelligence, and the effects of environmental and cultural influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between ‘races’—to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores, or to justify cultural assumptions—stubbornly persists. At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a rigorous, much-needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science—and a powerful reminder that, biologically, we are all far more alike than different.”

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
Deirdre Cooper Owens

“The accomplishments of pioneering doctors such as John Peter Mettauer, James Marion Sims, and Nathan Bozeman are well documented. It is also no secret that these nineteenth-century gynecologists performed experimental caesarean sections, ovariotomies, and obstetric fistula repairs primarily on poor and powerless women. Medical Bondage breaks new ground by exploring how and why physicians denied these women their full humanity yet valued them as "medical superbodies" highly suited for medical experimentation. In Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens examines a wide range of scientific literature and less formal communications in which gynecologists created and disseminated medical fictions about their patients, such as their belief that Black enslaved women could withstand pain better than white ‘ladies.’ Even as they were advancing medicine, these doctors were legitimizing, for decades to come, groundless theories related to whiteness and Blackness, men and women, and the inferiority of other races or nationalities.”

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
Dorothy Roberts

“In 1997, this groundbreaking book made a powerful entrance into the national conversation on race. In a media landscape dominated by racially biased images of welfare queens and crack babies, Killing the Black Body exposed America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies. From slave masters’ economic stake in bonded women’s fertility to government programs that coerced thousands of poor Black women into being sterilized as late as the 1970s, these abuses pointed to the degradation of Black motherhood—and the exclusion of Black women’s reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas. Now, some two decades later, Killing the Black Body has not only exerted profound influence, but also remains as crucial as ever—a rallying cry for education, awareness, and action on extending reproductive justice to all women.”

Are there books related to race and research ethics that you want to share? Tell us about them in the comments!

Looking for more resources on the intersection of race and research ethics? PRIM&R has compiled a list of conference sessions, webinars, video archives, and more on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page.

 

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