Categorizations of Race and Ethnicity: Useful or Outmoded in Medicine?
Vol. 4(9) September 2007 The PLoS Medicine
The issue image this month takes its theme from an essay (see Braun et al. e271) and a related perspective (see Ellison et al. e287) that explore the controversy and offer opinions on the best way to name, define, and study race and ethnicity in medicine. Human race and ethnicity, although socially determined categories, are routinely used to assign people to groups in research and clinical medicine.
But if these designations are socially determined, what do "black" and "white" really mean in biomedical science and clinical medicine? Is it even possible to reach a consensus on how most accurately and sensitively to name and define race and other groupings that are subject to social tension? The editorial (see Brown et al. e288) focuses on the editorial viewpoint of this question and surveys different solutions adopted by the publishing field.
Defining Human Differences in BiomedicineAvailable online at: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0040288".......Although race and ethnicity as contentious variables in research and clinical medicine are the most discussed in the literature, they are not the only possible sources of incorrect generalizations and possibly harmful bias. Others are sex/gender, age, sexual orientation, disease/disability, religion, socioeconomic status, and many more.For example, the AMA Manual of Style (10th edition, section 11.10 ) and the CSE manual (7th edition, section 7.5 ) offer advice on inclusive language in the areas of race/ethnicity, age, disease/disabilities, religion, and sexual orientation, emphasizing in part that terminology should be nonstigmatizing and reflect the preferred designations of groups or individuals. In all of these areas humans have been subject to stereotyping and discrimination; thus a critical examination of all the names we call ourselves and others is warranted, and at least general guidelines should be developed for these areas, although consensus may take time...."Racial Categories in Medical Practice: How Useful Are They?
Braun L, Fausto-Sterling A, Fullwiley D, Hammonds EM, Nelson A, et al. Is it good medical practice for physicians to "eyeball" a patient's race when assessing their medical status or even to ask them to identify their race?Racial Categories in Medicine: A Failure of Evidence-Based Practice? Ellison GTH, Smart A, Tutton R, Outram SM, Ashcroft R, et al. Race and ethnicity are imprecise markers of the genotypic and sociocultural determinants of health, argue the authors.
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