Dear Reader,

Four years ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we published an essay that changed the world.

It was written by Amy Moran-Thomas, an anthropologist at MIT. When COVID-19 struck her family in 2020, she became interested in pulse oximeters—ubiquitous medical devices, used to measure oxygen in the blood. She knew that light-sensing devices sometimes produce inaccurate results for patients with darker skin. She wondered what that could mean for racial disparities in health care outcomes—especially in a crisis like the pandemic.

After weeks of research and countless conversations with health care professionals, she made a startling discovery. Popular pulse oximeters on the market—used in homes and hospitals throughout the country—were known to give racially biased results. But most doctors had no idea.

The essay caught the attention of hospital physicians in Michigan. They were seeing puzzling discrepancies in oxygen measurements. A study confirmed it: Black patients were three times likelier than white patients to get dangerously inaccurate results from pulse oximeters. Their findings appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine later in 2020—prompting a national reckoning

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden implored the FDA to investigate. The agency convened a panel, and earlier this year it made recommendations echoing those of Moran-Thomas. You can learn more about this ongoing story in a special three-part series of the Public Health On Call podcast, released today by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The impact of Moran-Thomas’s essay shows why independent, nonprofit media is so important. Freed from the news cycle and advertising imperatives, we cover the stories, ideas, and arguments that encourage impatience with convention, scrutinize powerful institutions, and point the way to a better future. And at Boston Review, we make it all available for free online—because we think collective reasoning and imagination are most effective when they don’t live behind a paywall.

None of this would be possible without the financial support of readers like you. We have no endowment or single funder, and our future is never certain. We need to raise $200,000 this year to pay our authors and staff fairly, maintain our increasingly costly website, and continue covering the issues that matter most—including the wars raging in Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, the high-stakes elections reshaping our world, and the global assault on our rights and freedoms. We can’t get there without your help.

Will you please consider making a contribution today? Because we are nonprofit, your donation is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. If you can afford it, now is the time to consider giving as much as you can. If you have already donated, now is the time to consider donating again. You can donate easily online, using the widget below, or you can mail a check to P.O. Box 390568, Cambridge, MA 02139.

Every gift, no matter the size, goes directly to our bottom line and helps keep Boston Review running—publishing the transformative work we need to build a more just world.

Thank you for reading and for your support,

Deborah Chasman
Publisher and Coeditor-in-chief, Boston Review

P.S. To make a stock gift or bequest, please contact Marketing & Development Coordinator Irina Costache at [email protected].