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The race of a newborn and the doctor can affect survival chances

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2022 | Firm News

The level of health care received in the U.S. is too often impacted by patients’ race. That disparity in the level of care and the subsequent outcomes can start at birth or even before.

A study published in 2020 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) had some interesting – and disturbing – findings on newborn survival rates of Black babies based on the race of the doctor who delivered them.

Overall, Black newborns have a lower survival rate

Researchers studied data on some 1.8 million U.S. hospital births between 1992 and 2015. Overall, Black newborns had a lower survival rate than white newborns. This is consistent with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2000 through 2017. 

Black newborns seem to do better with Black doctors

Interestingly, in the PNAS study, when the race of the delivering physician was factored in, Black newborn babies were three times as likely to die if the doctor was white than if they had a Black doctor. Their mortality rate was considerably lower. The mortality rate for white newborns, on the other hand, didn’t vary significantly with the race of their doctor.

However, the study found that the disparity in mortality rates dropped considerably (in some cases by more than 50%) when a Black doctor oversaw the birth of a Black baby. The authors of the study, which was conducted by George Mason University, noted, “Strikingly, these effects appear to manifest more strongly in more complicated cases, and when hospitals deliver more Black newborns.”

As to why this is the case, the study’s authors didn’t speculate. They did note that hospitals need to be more aware of “institutional racism” and that they need to increase “awareness among physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators about the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities.”

These findings are certainly significant, and the subject warrants further and deeper study. Nonetheless, birth injuries occur in newborns of all races, and when the delivering doctors and other personnel are of all races. If your baby suffered a birth injury that may have been caused by negligence or error, you could be looking at considerable and long-term medical costs and other expenses. It’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance to determine your best course of action.