Unveiling Epistemic Injustice in US Health Care Systems

  1. Explain what Tressie McMillan Cottom means when she says that US health care systems assume black women’s incompetence? Use specifics from the author’s argument as you summarize the main points.
  2. As she conveys the story, how might Cottom’s pregnancy have been different had the health care workers involved read her as competent? What would have changed? Name the differences in detail and explain with specifics.
  3. Name some A. stereotypes and B. structural features of modern health care that, according to Kidd & Carel, C. make patients especially vulnerable to epistemic injustice?
  4. One kind of epistemic injustice in health care is testimonial injustice. A. Define testimonial injustice. B. Give an example of testimonial injustice from Cottom, Kidd & Carel. C. Explain what makes this example a testimonial injustice.
  5. Another kind epistemic injustice in health care is hermeneutical injustice. A. Define hermeneutical injustice. B. Give an example of hermeneutical injustice from Cottom, Kidd & Carel. C. Explain what makes it hermeneutical injustice.
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Title: Unveiling Epistemic Injustice in US Health Care Systems

In her thought-provoking work, Tressie McMillan Cottom sheds light on the assumptions and biases present within US health care systems that perpetuate epistemic injustice towards black women. By examining her personal experiences and drawing on broader societal issues, Cottom illuminates the detrimental effects of these assumptions, highlighting the need for a more equitable and inclusive approach to healthcare.

US Health Care Systems and Assumptions of Black Women’s Incompetence:
Cottom argues that US health care systems assume black women’s incompetence, which results in disparities in treatment and care. She underscores the intersectionality of race and gender, explaining how these assumptions stem from deeply ingrained stereotypes and biases. Cottom further reveals that these assumptions result in unequal access to quality healthcare, a lack of trust between black women and healthcare providers, and inadequate support for their specific needs.

The Impact of Perceived Competence on Cottom’s Pregnancy Journey:
Had the healthcare workers involved perceived Cottom as competent, her pregnancy experience would have been significantly different. Firstly, she would have received more attentive and proactive care from her healthcare providers. Instead, she encountered dismissive attitudes and a lack of empathy. Additionally, had her competence been acknowledged, Cottom would have been more involved in decision-making processes regarding her own health, leading to a sense of agency and empowerment throughout her pregnancy journey.

Stereotypes and Structural Features Leading to Epistemic Injustice:
According to Kidd and Carel, there are several stereotypes and structural features within modern healthcare that render patients vulnerable to epistemic injustice.
A. Stereotypes: These include beliefs that patients are unreliable narrators of their own experiences or that certain groups are more prone to exaggeration or dishonesty.
B. Structural Features: Factors such as time constraints, power imbalances, and the hierarchical nature of healthcare contribute to the vulnerability of patients. This can result in their voices being marginalized or dismissed, leading to epistemic injustices.

Testimonial Injustice: Definition and Example:
A. Testimonial injustice refers to the systematic devaluation or dismissal of an individual’s testimony based on prejudiced assumptions about their credibility.
B. In Cottom’s case, she recounts an incident where her concerns about a potential blood clot were dismissed by a healthcare provider due to assumptions about her credibility as a black woman.
C. This example illustrates testimonial injustice because Cottom’s testimonial was not given due consideration or taken seriously, perpetuating the cycle of epistemic injustice.

Hermeneutical Injustice: Definition and Example:
A. Hermeneutical injustice occurs when individuals are unable to fully understand or articulate their experiences due to a lack of available concepts or language.
B. Cottom highlights how hermeneutical injustice is manifested through the absence of comprehensive medical literature that addresses the unique health concerns faced by black women.
C. This example represents hermeneutical injustice as the lack of appropriate resources inhibits black women from fully expressing and addressing their health needs, perpetuating further inequities.

Tressie McMillan Cottom’s work illuminates the prevalence of epistemic injustices within US health care systems, particularly targeting black women. By recognizing the assumptions of incompetence placed upon black women, addressing stereotypes, and rectifying structural flaws in healthcare, we can move towards a more equitable system that values every individual’s voice and experience. It is imperative for healthcare providers and policymakers alike to acknowledge and address these injustices to ensure better healthcare outcomes for all individuals.

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