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Race, Ethnic Group, and Disease

Thomas M. Johnson, PhD; Barry J. Fenton, MD; Howard F. Stein, PhD
JAMA. 1986;255(9):1138-1139. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370090060016.
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To the Editor.—  A recent letter to the editor condemns the common practice of including racial or ethnic group affiliation as part of the patient identification data in medical case reports.1 While we agree with the assertion that such distinctions are sometimes vague, we take issue with the statement that "the racial distinction of patients by terms such as 'black,' 'white,' 'Indian,' 'Arab,' or others is litigious, improper, and useless." While it may be true that the post hoc reporting of racial or ethnic affiliation in published case reports may not contribute much necessary information (particularly when in tabular form), case reports in the literature often follow directly from the clinical treatment of patients, where assessment of the cultural influences on health beliefs and practices is essential for good medical practice.Indeed, collaboration between medical anthropologists, sociologists, and physicians has resulted in a well-established body of literature cataloging the


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