How Black Kids Are Getting Less Pain Medication Than White Kids In ER

How Black Kids Are Getting Less Pain Medication Than White Kids In ER

by Victoria Simpson

The title of this article is misleading. It says that it’s about how black kids are receiving less pain medication than white kids in emergency rooms across the U.S, but the explanation as to how this is happening is clear- they simply aren’t being given it.

Why? Because people are biased, unfair and sometimes cruel.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found that when white kids are admitted and treated in an ER for acute appendicitis- a pretty painful condition- 41% of them receive an opioid drug to combat their pain, while just 12% of black children in the exact same condition-with acute appendicitis- receive the same opioid pain relief treatment.

Yes, 12%. That’s right-black children receive around about 30% less pain relief than white kids.

Acute appendicitis is extremely painful, that’s all I’ll say. Those are some very tough black kids.


The study in question was conducted by Dr. Monika Goyal of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, and her colleagues. It was comprehensive. Researchers analyzed national survey data from more than 900,000 cases of children with acute appendicitis, from 2003 to 2010.

Is there any good explanation as to why the vast gap in fair treatment exists?

No. A recent report on says experts are chalking the results up to a combination of an unwarranted fear of opioids such as morphine and fentanyl, (whether on the part of the patients or medical staff is not clear), combined with an unconscious bias against African-American kids.


The researchers note that painkillers, including opioids, are strongly recommended for appendicitis.

“If there is no physiological explanation for differing treatment of the same phenomena, we are left with the notion that subtle biases, implicit and explicit, conscious and unconscious, influence the clinician’s judgment,” NBC quoted Dr. Eric Fleegler and Dr. Neil Schechter of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School as commenting on the issue.

The doctors went on to state that, in their view, emergency department doctors aren’t doing their job if they are not controlling pain in all children.

“Strategies and available knowledge exist to remedy this unfortunate situation; we can and should do better,” they commented.

Yes, we certainly can. There is nowhere to go but up.


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