by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The two accrediting bodies for American medical schools say that meritocracy is “malignant” and that race has “no genetic or scientific basis,” positions that many doctors worry will lower standards of care and endanger lives by discouraging vital genetic testing.
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits all medical schools in North America, is cosponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association for Medical Colleges (AAMC)—the same groups that on Oct. 30 released a controversial guide to “advancing health equity” through “language, narrative, and concepts.”
Those concepts include the ideas that “individualism and meritocracy” are “malignant narratives” that “create harm,” that using race as a proxy for genetics “leads directly to racial health inequities,” and that medical vulnerability is the “result of socially created processes” rather than biology.
Integrating these ideas into medicine, five professors and practicing doctors told the Washington Free Beacon, would be a catastrophe, resulting in underqualified doctors, missed diagnoses, and unscientific medical school curricula.
The guidance won’t just influence the way doctors talk, these practitioners said, but also what they know and how they treat patients. It could even make them unwilling to screen racial minorities for serious conditions—including many types of cancer—that they are more likely to inherit, on the mistaken belief that genes play no role in racial health disparities.
“Some vulnerability isn’t about economic or social marginalization,” said Jeff Singer, a general surgeon in Arizona. “A lot of conditions”—such as Tay-Sachs, which disproportionately impacts Ashkenazi Jews, and triple-negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects black women—”vary based on genetics. We’re talking about matters of life and death here.”
Singer’s warning echoes the argument that five black professors in March made in the New England Journal of Medicine, where they described genetic denialism as “a form of naive ‘color blindness'” that would “perpetuate and potentially exacerbate disparities.”