This Instrument Misdiagnoses Darker Skin

Pulse oximeter attached to hand
Via Pixabay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
June 3, 2021

When a “pulse oximeter” is attached to your fingertips, it’s actually measuring the amount of oxygen in your blood. This is important – the amount of oxygen in your blood can determine what tests you need, especially if COVID-19 is seriously affecting your body! So exactly how is it biased against Black people?

The device was only tested on white skin, so sometimes it doesn’t give accurate readings for melanated patients like us. This can put us in danger of being misdiagnosed, missing out on needed treatments, or even dying! That’s not even the worst part.

Researchers have known about this over three decades, yet no changes have been made to the device! It doesn’t come with a warning, and patients aren’t warned either. What on Earth is going on with this silence?

Doctors cannot agree on the research. While some white doctors refuse to believe medical instruments can be biased, there are other doctors who know the device can mean the difference between life or death for their Black patients.

We must remember that racism is a public health issue. Pulse oximeters are racially biased. We must continue to enter the medical research field, push our representatives to demand more studies, and use our innovation to replace technology that doesn’t work for us!

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