Document Type


Publication Date



Taking notice of race is both risky and inevitable, in medicine no less than in other endeavors. The literature on race as a classifying tool in clinical research poses this core dilemma: On the one hand, race can be a useful stand-in for unstudied genetic and environmental factors that yield differences in disease expression and therapeutic response. On the other hand, racial distinctions have social mean­ ings that are often pejorative or worse, especially when these distinctions are cast as culturally or biologically fixed. Our country's troubled past in this regard and the persistence of race-related disadvantage should keep us on notice about this hazard. Yet paying attention to race in order to ameliorate past wrongs sometimes supports the quest for social justice, as Dorothy Roberts points out in this issue. And at times, as Jay Cohn and Raj Bhopal note, attention to race can make a therapeutic difference, to the point of saving lives.

Publication Citation

34 J.L. Med. & Ethics 555-558 (2006)