August 31, 2006

Do You Trust Your Doctor?

Do you support organ donation? Most people do. That is, most white people do, and most of us in blogland are white, and a lot of us tend to get testy if other people refuse to donate organs. "How can you be so selfish?" people ask. "You could save a life!" But what if we were black? Or rather, if you are African American, are you an organ donor? "How can you not be?" some people wonder.

Only 12% of organ donors are black. Why? Mostly, it seems, African Americans don't trust doctors. They fear that if they are in an accident, they'll be allowed to die so their organs can be given to white people. We white folks may think that's ridiculous, or some kind of racial paranoia. But seriously, is it?

Most people know about the Tuskeegee syphillis experimentation. That's an ugly enough story to make anyone afraid. But what about a heatstroke study done in Georgia, in which black men were buried in the ground up to their necks, in the sun, to see how long it would take them to lose consciousness.

Or how about the "father of modern gynecology," a Dr. Marion Sims, who performed 30 to 40 operations, with no anesthesia, on three women slaves, to figure out how to repair vaginal fistulas after childbirth.

So how about that fear that a black person's organs will be given to a white person? It's probably a myth, albeit a scary one given the above historical atrocities. However, what about this statistic, from MSNBC: "Blacks comprise 18 percent of U.S. organ recipients, while whites comprise 63 percent, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing." Kind of makes you wonder, huh?

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