Race As a Lifesaver

By Erica Lee


The topic of race has long been controversial and misused, but does it have a role to play in medicine? In the past, corrupt and immoral reigns have often hid behind a veil of science to define the superiority and inferiority of different races. Now, the existence of the concept of race itself is in question, and the most common point of contention remains focused on the question of how to define various ethnicities or races. The use of geographical gradients, or ‘clines’, has been proposed as a solution to this problem. Many biological differences among racial groups have been shown, ranging from increased risks of genetic diseases to increased risk of dangerous drug side effects. The potential for preventative measures that would compensate for these risks and therefore save lives is drastic. As history has shown, the social implications that could potentially result from legitimizing the existence of racial differences cannot be ignored. However, this past exploitation should not have the result of excluding the potential role of ethnicity in identifying risk variation among different ethnic groups, and personalizing medicine in order to address and overcome these risks and differences.

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