News & Politics

Cancel Culture Comes to Medicine

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

The  Journal of the American Medical Association is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world and is regularly cited as an authority on everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction.

Now JAMA is embroiled in controversy over a podcast on racism and medicine that didn’t include any black panelists. After hundreds of black doctors complained, the AMA fired the deputy editor of JAMA and suspended the editor-in-chief, Dr. Howard Bauchner, pending the outcome of an investigation.

The subject of the podcast was racism in healthcare which has been much in the news in recent months as racism has been blamed for the disparity in Covid deaths between blacks and whites.

Associated Press:

“The decision to place the editor-in-chief on administrative leave neither implicates nor exonerates individuals and is standard operating procedure for such investigations,” the committee said in a statement.

Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, JAMA’s executive editor, will serve as interim editor.

“It’s a reasonable first step but it should not be seen as mission accomplished,” Dr. Raymond Givens, a Black cardiologist in New York, said Friday. He has been a vocal online critic of a lack of diversity among editors of JAMA and other prominent medical journals.

There are several possible explanations for why more blacks died proportionately than whites and most of them have to do with income disparities, not racial animus. Poor people are generally less healthy. They tend toward obesity, which makes them more susceptible to heart disease and diabetes. Black people also smoke at a higher rate than whites, which is a known factor in lung diseases like COPD and emphysema.

It’s also a fact that whites spend more on healthcare in general than blacks. And clinics and hospitals are more accessible in rich suburbs than in the poor inner city.

All of the above conditions are prime contributors to serious illness and death from Covid-19 so it stands to reason more blacks would die of Covid as a proportion of the population than whites.

What makes this podcast issue so silly is that the recording was “a discussion for skeptics” of the idea that there is racism in healthcare. Apparently, even discussing the possibility that there were other factors involved in the disparities in outcomes in healthcare proved too much for some.

The podcast was billed as a discussion for skeptics and featured two white doctors: a deputy journal editor who expressed discomfort with the word “racism” and a physician who runs a New York City health system.

That deputy later resigned at Bauchner’s request and JAMA created a new associate editor position for someone with expertise in racism in health care.

“No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” read the tweet in question. That may be tone deaf but racist? It got the deputy editor fired.

If black physicians want to discuss racism in healthcare they’re going to have to learn to talk to people who don’t agree with them. One could say the same thing about any issue being used by the cancel culture to exercise power and hurt their enemies.

You get the feeling most of the cancel culture would be very, very comfortable in Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. There’s only one way to think about anything and disagreement leads to a trip to the gulag. No, they wouldn’t mind that at all.

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