New Delhi: Facing backlash over a podcast that questioned the existence of racism in medical science, the American Medical Association announced that Howard Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of the journal JAMA has stepped down from his post.
Bauchner had been on administrative leave while a review of a JAMA podcast and tweet about structural racism in medicine was in process.
On 24 February, a podcast featured JAMA deputy editor Edward Livingstone and Mitchell Katz, an editor at JAMA Internal Medicine, in which Livingstone questioned whether racism was embedded in society and whether the use of the term was justified. The podcast titled “Structural Racism for Doctors – What is It?” was taken down after the backlash.
A tweet promoting the podcast said: “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in healthcare? An explanation of the idea by doctors for doctors.”
“Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist,” Livingstone said during the podcast, according to a report in The Guardian.
An online petition asking JAMA to stop perpetuating racism has gathered over 9,000 signatures.
Comments ‘inaccurate, hurtful’
In an apology uploaded on the webpage that hosted the podcast, Bauchner admitted that structural racism did exist in healthcare in the US.
“Comments made in the podcast were inaccurate, offensive, hurtful, and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA,” Bauchner said.
“After careful consideration, I determined that the harms caused by the podcast outweighed any reason for the podcast to remain available on the JAMA Network,” he added.
In March, James L. Madara, CEO and Executive Vice President of the American Medical Association said in a statement that they were “deeply disturbed and angered” by the podcast.
“JAMA has editorial independence from AMA, but this tweet and podcast are inconsistent with the policies and views of AMA and I’m concerned about and acknowledge the harms they have caused. Structural racism in health care and our society exists and it is incumbent on all of us to fix it,” Madara said.
On March 12, Madara issued another statement which said that Livingston’s resignation had been asked for, and accepted.
On Tuesday, Bauchner too stepped down from his post.
“I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast. Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor-in-chief, I am ultimately responsible for them,” Bauchner said.
Racism in US healthcare
Racism in healthcare in the US has come under the scanner, especially in the context of the Covid pandemic.
Some examples include a 2016 study which showed as much 73 per cent of the white medical students wrongly believe Black people have a higher pain tolerance than white people.
Such beliefs impact the decisions doctors make while treating patients, ultimately leading to poorer medical outcomes for minority communities.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.