‘Racist healthcare is life-threatening – some devices don’t work on dark skin’ – Saira Khan

Sunday Mirror columnist Saira Khan exposes a scandal over medical devices that can be deadly if your skin is darker because they’re designed for white people.

Close-up of unrecognizable black woman using pulse oximeter to check blood oxygen saturation and heart rate
Many pulse oximeters give false results if you have dark skin

When we need medical treatment, we hope that whatever equipment is used will work. However, surprisingly, it has recently been discovered that some gadgets are less effective for people with darker skin.

For example, a pulse oximeter – a device placed on the fingertip to measure oxygen levels – does not work well on darker skin.

That’s because of the way tissue in the finger absorbs light. Darker skin absorbs more light, so a pulse oximeter will give different results than a light-skinned person.

I’m running a campaign with the global health technology company, Masimo, to warn minorities that many of these devices on the market have only been tested on white skin.

As a result, they can give inaccurate results – which can then pose a health hazard.

Health Minister Sajid Javid has ordered a review of racial prejudice


NEIL HALL / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)

I am furious that a device used by doctors every day for one of the most basic health checks is fundamentally racist.

Health Minister Sajid Javid has begun looking into the issue of racial bias in medical equipment amid concerns that thousands of ethnic minority patients have died from Covid who could have survived.

Research has shown that patients at risk of becoming very unwell because of Covid are best identified by their oxygen levels. Javid writes: “I am determined to do whatever is necessary so that in this country your health and your healthcare experience are not determined by where you live or where you come from… compensate for these disparities anywhere. find them.”

In my wildest dreams, I never thought that the color of my skin would affect me and those of my heritage in such a negative way on health.

Saira Khan at the gala performance of Cirque De Soleil’s ‘LUIZA’ at The Royal Albert Hall in January 2020


Dave Benett/Getty Images)

I take it for granted that we use all medical devices because, during product research and development, tests will be done on a group that includes people of color.

As the founder of a skincare brand myself, I test my products on all skin types. I know that brown and black skin can be a lot drier, so they need different amounts of oil-based products for fair skin.

The reason this issue resonates with me so much is because my mom fits into a key demographic where their lives could be in danger if I wasn’t vigilant.

She is recovering from a bad surgery and is on strong opioids. Measuring the amount of oxygen in her blood is important, as people who use strong opioids are at real risk of their oxygen levels dropping, which can be fatal.

So I had to get her an oximeter.

If I hadn’t worked with Masimo, I could have picked up any oximeter and assumed it would work for her as well as my 85-year-old white mother-in-law. Not so.

I want to share this information with people of color so they can make sure their lives are no longer at risk.

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Fry Electronics Team

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