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Does your doctor’s politics affect your care?

By Veita Bland, M.D. / October 14, 2016

 Studies show that a physician’s political affiliation influences how he/she treats their patients.

Studies show that a physician’s political affiliation influences how he/she treats their patients.

As we approach the end of this political season many questions have been raised by both major American parties. The question of how each party would affect health care is a serious question. The proposed answers that are given need to be examined carefully. Are the proposals meticulously thought out? Are the proposals something that could be passed by the Congress? Are the proposals ideals that would be helpful to you in your particular life situation? Do your state and congressional representatives know how you feel about health issues? It is your job to inform them of your issues.

Have you ever wondered if your healthcare provider is affected by a political agenda? Is the care that is given to you affected in any way by how your healthcare provider votes?

The Washington Post reported recently on a study that was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, a group of researchers from Yale wanted to see if a physician’s political party affiliation affected their care of patients.

In a relatively small study, different scenarios requiring care were proposed to the physicians. An example of such was that Republicans were more concerned about scenarios that included multiple previous abortions and marijuana use. While the Democrats were most concerned about firearm access and patients who had sexual relationships with sex workers.

The Democratic doctors were less likely to discuss the health risk of marijuana, its legal risk nor ask the patient to cut back on usage. The Republican doctors were twice as likely as the Democratic doctors to discourage abortions and 35 percent more likely to discuss the mental health effects of having an abortion.

The Democratic physicians were very concerned about the scenario where there were firearms in a home that had young children. Their concern primarily regarded the proper storage of the firearms. Democratic physicians were 66 percent more likely to urge the patient to not store firearms at home.

Dr. Eithan Hersh, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, noted that partisan differences were immediately apparent even in this small study. He stated that he hopes the study will open up dialog about how a physician’s personal beliefs might affect the care given to patients.

A final statement was given by Phil Roe, a retired obstetrician and Republican representative from Tennessee who chairs the GOP Doctors Caucus. “Party affiliation should have nothing to do with patient care.” I agree but inherent biases do exist.

Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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