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January 8, 1992

The Use of Race in Medical Research

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, State University of New York, Syracuse (Dr Osborne), and Department of Social Work, The University of Akron (Ohio) (Dr Feit). Dr Osborne is now with the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.

JAMA. 1992;267(2):275-279. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480020085037

IS RACIAL research in medicine racist? Publications about comparative racial research number in the thousands. A review of the English-language medical literature reveals that there is a predilection for making comparisons between black and white patients, particularly with diseases associated with promiscuity, underachievement, and antisocial behavior. Reports on studies of sexually acquired diseases,1-6 suboptimal intellectual performance,7-9 drug abuse,10,11 violence,12-14 and sexual assault15-17 are common. Other topics of racial comparison are differences in incidence of renal and cardiovascular18-21 diseases and presumed racial differences in anatomy,22,23 physiology,24-26 and psychology.27

See also pp 259 and 268.

When race is used as a variable in research, there is a tendency to assume that the results obtained are a manifestation of the biology of racial differences; race as a variable implies that a genetic reason may explain differences in incidence, severity, or outcome of medical conditions.