Senior woman waiting in in doctors exam room

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Despite all of the statistical evidence that supports the idea of systemic racism in America, there are those (the unrelentingly white and fragile) who refuse to believe it’s real. But if the U.S. isn’t a systemically racist country, why is it that up until a few years ago, a racially biased organ test was keeping Black people from receiving kidney transplants in a timely manner?

According to the Associated Press, recently, more than 14,000 Black kidney transplant candidates got their wait times moved up on the priority lists for patients who need new kidneys. Some of them had their dates moved up literal years, such as 29-year-old Jazmin Evans, who was put on the transplant list in 2019, even though she should have been added in 2015, according to a letter she got from her healthcare provider.

“I remember just reading that letter over and over again,” Evans told AP. “How could this happen?”

That’s a good question with an absurdly racist answer. From AP:

At issue is a once widely used test that overestimated how well Black people’s kidneys were functioning, making them look healthier than they really were — all because of an automated formula that calculated results for Black and non-Black patients differently. That race-based equation could delay diagnosis of organ failure and evaluation for a transplant, exacerbating other disparities that already make Black patients more at risk of needing a new kidney but less likely to get one.

A few years ago, the National Kidney Foundation and American Society of Nephrology prodded laboratories to switch to race-free equations in calculating kidney function. Then the U.S. organ transplant network ordered hospitals to use only race-neutral test results in adding new patients to the kidney waiting list.

“The immediate question came up: What about the people on the list right now? You can’t just leave them behind,” said Dr. Martha Pavlakis of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and former chair of the network’s kidney committee.

Pavlakis calls what happened next an attempt at restorative justice: The transplant network gave hospitals a year to uncover which Black kidney candidates could have qualified for a new kidney sooner if not for the race-based test — and adjust their waiting time to make up for it. That lookback continues for each newly listed Black patient to see if they, too, should have been referred sooner.

Just think about what a great case study this would be for critical race theory, an academic framework for studying the inherent racism in American systems, which would easily include America’s long and well-documented history of medical racism. Unfortunately, MAGA America would sooner deny systemic racism while literally watching it kill Black people before they lend CRT any credence at all.

Anyway, out of the 14,300 Black patients who had their wait times modified between January and mid-March of 2023, more than 2,800 of them, including Evans, have received a transplant, but, as AP noted, “numerous formulas or ‘algorithms’ used in medical decisions — treatment guidelines, diagnostic tests, risk calculators — adjust the answers according to race or ethnicity in a way that puts people of color at disadvantage.”

But nah, there’s no systemic racism in the medical world or beyond, amirite?


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