Doctors Say Proposed Ballot Measure to Ban Identification of Race on Documents Could Endanger Public Health
A measure that would prohibit the identification of individuals' race in state and local government documents, including hospital records, may appear on the California ballot as early as November, but some doctors fear that the proposal could endanger public health, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. The American Civil Rights Coalition will submit about one million signatures -- 330,000 more than necessary -- to state and county officials in support of the proposed ballot measure, called the Racial Privacy Initiative. If approved by June 24, the measure will appear on the November ballot. If approved after June 24, it will appear in the spring of 2004. Supporters hope that the measure will help end discrimination in the state, but opponents express concern that the proposal would "freeze databases" that help public officials identify discrimination against minorities in a number of areas, including the medical profession. Doctors say that diseases such as breast cancer, diabetes and asthma "afflict each race differently" and are concerned that the elimination of race from medical records could "obscure a disease cluster among one racial group" and delay treatment (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/19).