Racial Injustice: Medicine is not exempt.

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

The last week has been hard. Traumatic. Exhausting. Frustrating.

Everywhere you turn, you cannot escape from the harsh reality of racial injustice.

The social media timeline littered with the video of a black man being murdered in the name of ‘law enforcement’.

“I can’t breathe.” – one of the final statements George Floyd uttered before his death.

I’m not sure what makes me shudder the most. The fact that I watched a man be brutally killed in broad daylight. Or perhaps it was the lack of empathy of the police officer as he continued to exert disproportionate force on the man’s neck. Or maybe the fact that the man’s outcries of pain were ignored.

“I can’t breathe”.

In medicine, this is probably one of the most worrying statements to hear. We’re trained to assess medical emergencies in the order of priority: Airway, Breathing, Circulation etc. The statement “I can’t breathe” raises immediate alarm bells, knowing fully well that life may be at stake. Yet in this situation it did not matter.

It’s difficult to carry on as normal after seeing a man be killed. A man that could have been your loved one or anyone you know. A man who was a victim of someone’s racist judgment that ultimately lead to his life being tragically lost. It's becoming all too frequent. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga all lost their lives at the hands of racial injustice.

It is irrational to even question the existence of racism at this point. It is even more ridiculous to question why Black lives matter. Black lives should matter to every medical professional. It is by no coincidence that the BMJ published an issue on ‘Racism in Medicine’ this year.

Racism impacts us all.

Racism impacts our patients.

Racism impacts our colleagues.

Racism impacts our interactions.

Racism impacts Medicine.