V. Physician Liability for Civil Rights Violations

Given the likely difficulties in succeeding on a claim alleging that a biased decision violated a doctor's professional obligations to an individual patient, perhaps a theory of recovery that adopts a broader view would be more promising. If we approach the influence of bias on medical decision making as a problem of a physician treating similarly situated patients differently, then we can see that the bias produces discriminatory medical treatment decisions. Once we frame the problem as discrimination, then the application of civil rights laws to instances of that discrimination seems a natural response, at least if the characteristic prompting the discrimination is one that receives protection under anti-discrimination laws. This Part will begin by identifying the variety of federal statutes that patients aggrieved by biased medical judgments might invoke in seeking a civil rights remedy. After laying out this arsenal of statutory weapons, this Part will then discuss likely barriers to an effective civil rights remedy for instances of biased medical treatment.