ACS issues call to action on racism as a public health crisis: An ethical imperative

In light of the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on African-American and other minority communities, as well as the continued police violence against black people in the U.S., the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in early June issued a call to action declaring racism as a public health crisis.

“At a time when people are desperately seeking a vaccine to allow them to shed their ‘protective face masks’ and return to a semblance of normalcy, unfortunately, African Americans continue to confront, all too frequently, mistreatment or brutality by some law enforcement officers, which has given rise to more than an aspirational slogan, but rather an urgent cry: ‘Black Lives Matter,’” the call to action reads. The compounding effects of systemic racism that led to the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sparked nationwide protests that demanded justice against the deep racial inequities in the U.S.

These unprecedented crises call for enlightened and innovative leadership, inspired intervention, and compassionate service from all members of the ACS.

According to the ACS Board of Regents and the Committee on Ethics, which developed the comments, “These unprecedented crises call for enlightened and innovative leadership, inspired intervention, and compassionate service from all members of the ACS.” Specifically, the College calls upon its members to work toward eliminating health care disparities, identifying the structural racism that leads to a greater prevalence of chronic illness, and recognizing that racial injustice exacerbates existing health care disparities. College leadership said, “Correcting these injustices now, by denouncing racism and its deleterious effects on the health of Black and Brown people, is among the most important missions of the ACS.”

Read the full call to action.

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