VII. Conclusion

Published studies suggest that bias based on a clinically irrelevant characteristic of a patient at times influences some physicians' medical judgments. These biased medical decisions can have adverse impacts on the particular patient who is the victim of the biased decision, as well as on the public's health more broadly. It is questionable, however, whether either existing civil rights laws or professional liability actions provide victims of biased medical decisions with an avenue for obtaining effective legal redress. Civil rights approaches fail to deal with the full spectrum of *303 biased medical decisions and leave plaintiffs struggling to convince courts that subconscious bias can produce intentional discrimination. Professional liability approaches, by contrast, seem uncomfortable scrutinizing the physician's subjective motivation for treatment choices and typically demand concrete physical injuries as a predicate for patient recovery. While existing legal frameworks do not provide ready remedies for victims of physician bias, developments in the areas of civil rights enforcement and medical quality improvement may support future efforts to respond to the problem of physician bias.


 Florida Bar Health Law Section Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law. B.A., University of Virginia, 1984; J.D., Vanderbilt University, 1987.