Healthcare Equality and The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year on January 17th, Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His legacy made a huge impact on healthcare equality, employment, and civil rights. Unknown to many, Dr. King’s advocacies have lived on and made a lasting influence on what we experience today in modern-day healthcare.

In the United States, 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals provide world-class treatment for every young patient regardless of their racial heritage or social background. CMN Hospitals remain true to their commitment to treating all children without the shadow of prejudice and segregation. These families in need rely heavily on donations to local hospitals that use these funds to carry out their social and humanitarian responsibilities. 

Sadly, segregation took a while to dissipate in some U.S. hospitals. In 1954, the passage of Brown vs. Board of Education paved the way for schools to desegregate which was followed by hospitals and other institutions. King’s advocacy for equality swept through the healthcare industry and improved access for the African American community.

A History of Unequal Healthcare

Each patient deserves a standard grade of care upon entering any hospital no matter their identity or background. Unfortunately, such standards were not always followed by medical institutions in America as African Americans continued to be subjected to outright abuse and substandard care in medical science taking these significant events in history:

  • Tuskegee experiments lasted for 40 years until the 1970s. 
  • Cold War experiments by Dr. Eugene Saenger exposed unknowing African American cancer patients to deadly radiation levels to document its effects
  • Cloning Henrietta Lacks’ cells by using tissue sample acquisition without authorization.

No one knew about these events in the 1960s however, many African Americans were aware of receiving care inferior to white patients. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, however, this saw no changes in the double standard treatment of patients in the hospitals. The deplorable difference in the quality of treatment led Dr. King to loudly speak against such acts rousing the American conscience to the value of equality.

Desegregating Hospitals

The Medical Committee for Human Rights is an organization formed to address the segregation within the American Medical Association. During its annual meeting, King’s famous words were memorialized in the history of healthcare. It was on this occasion that he hammered on the shocking injustice in health, emphasizing how this is the most inhumane form of inequality because it often results in loss of life.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not associated with healthcare, but at that time in history, resistance to desegregation was still prevalent in some medical institutions and hospitals. Such discriminatory practices were carried out until something was done to stop them.

Legal Gains for Equality in Hospitals

1965 saw the passage of Medicare and Medicaid which brought Dr. King to loudly voice his thoughts in 1966. King’s protests wouldn’t be possible without the hard work from the Medical Committee for Human Rights organization and its head, W. Montague Cobb. The committee strategically utilized strategies from the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s non-violent protests.

The passage of the Social Security Act paved the way for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Their birth reigned in each hospital and medical institution located in the U.S. to receive funding from the government, bound by a social obligation to the Civil Rights Act. This also saw the end of discrimination as any hospital known to continually practice such inequalities was subjected to lawsuits.

Such legal actions are now validated by African Americans who are now empowered to stand for equal health alongside pressure from activists like King and the Medical Committee for Human Rights. That day during the 1966 conference marked a significant turning point for the healthcare industry when Dr. King called out hospitals on their grievous practices of cruel discrimination. His powerful words continue to live in every heart of each medical institution to uphold economic equality, the right to gainful employment, and the right to equal healthcare access for every man, woman, and child.

Final Thoughts

Discrimination has no place in healthcare. It is a moral responsibility to provide everyone with optimal healthcare that is blind to race or social background.

We at  Phoenix Virtual Solutions, don’t just work as healthcare virtual staff and cater to the clients’ business needs. We remain committed to our social responsibilities through our charity events and help bring smiles to communities.

Our mission and vision have now focused on children facing challenges during the pandemic. With the continued support of our charity partners, selected PVS healthcare virtual staff recently launched our  “I Can Breathe” Charity project, an outreach for Filipino children with asthma. 

Thanks to Dr.King for inspiring us! If you’d like to know our next events or want to show your support, feel free to contact us as we continue to help change the lives of many Filipinos.

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