Letters to the Editor Address Recent Editorial Related to Black Parents’ Reluctance To Enroll Their Children Into Clinical Trials
In an editorial earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responded to a recent study that found that 67% of black parents, compared with 50% of white parents, mistrust medical research. In addition, the study found that 40% of black parents, compared with 28% of white parents, "suspect doctors of experimenting on their children with risky medicines." The editorial stated, "Black parents owe it to their children ... to become more sophisticated about how American medical policy evolved over the decades" (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 2/6). The Post-Gazette on Sunday published two letters to the editor in response to the editorial. Summaries appear below.
- Stephen Thomas/Kumaravel Rajakumar: Calling black parents' response to the situation a "'height of irresponsibility -- and superstition' is offensive and misses the point," Thomas, director of University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health, and Rajakumar, a physician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, write. They add, "Racial discrimination in medicine and research would be easy to ignore were it not so well documented." According to Thomas and Rajakumar, a 2002 study found that "even with the same insurance coverage, income and disease," blacks "receive worse medical care than their white counterparts. These are the facts, not superstitious conspiracy theories." They continue, "Increasing the diversity of the health professions work force could help create a more trustworthy system for African-American patients. However, health professionals and institutions must also be vigilant in ensuring that all patients, regardless of income, race, sexual orientation or religion, are treated equally" (Thomas/Rajakumar, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/22).
- Margaret Washington: The editorial "leaves the reader with a misguided impression of why African-American parents are reluctant to participate in clinical trials at Children's Hospital," Washington, former executive director of the End-Stage Renal Disease Network at UPMC and expert on doctor-patient relationships, writes in a letter to the editor. "The real explanation is not the horrific Tuskegee experiments, but rather the parents' experiential history of regular encounters with a sometimes insensitive delivery system too busy to explain in layman's terms the details of a procedure or care provided," according to Washington. She notes that her research has found many blacks experience communication issues with their doctors. She writes that providers must also "take a moment to listen and to hear the parents' need to understand the system and environment," adding, "A clear understanding will encourage parents to partner in the care of their children" (Washington, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/22).