Researchers from Yale University suggest that the political affiliation of physicians have a role to play in their treatment decisions in politics related health issues like abortion, gun safety and marijuana use.
The investigators found that the doctors' decision making on politicized health issues were influenced by their political views whether they are Democrats or Republicans. For the purpose of the study, the researchers obtained information on political party affiliation of over 20,000 doctors practicing in 29 states from the public voter registration records.
The physicians were then asked to evaluate about nine patient vignettes, three of which dealt with politicized issues like firearms storage, abortion and marijuana use. One of the scenarios included a 38-year-old patient using marijuana three times a week and another dealt with a parent of two small children possessing firearms at home.
It is to be noted that the doctors' ideas and treatment decisions differed according to their inclination towards Democratic or Republican parties only on the three politics related health issues and not on rest of the problems.
Eitan Hersh, the co-author of the study, said that the doctors are influenced by their political views in their professional decision making. The patients might have to choose physicians according to their own political views just like selecting a doctor of a particular gender to be more comfortable during the treatment processes.
It was observed that Republican physicians were concerned about issues like marijuana use and abortion than their Democratic counterparts. On the other hand, the Democratic doctors gave more importance to vignettes related to firearm use than marijuana use or abortion issue. Problems like obesity, anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse were treated just as same by all the physicians.
Republican doctors were keen on counseling patients on health risks of marijuana use and abortion while Democratic physicians were particular about urging patients to give up on storing firearms at home.
"Given the politicization of certain health issues affecting countless patients, it is imperative that physicians consider how their political views may affect their professional judgments," said Matthew Goldenberg, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, in press release. "The evidence calls for heightened awareness among physicians and more training concerning our biases in how we address politically salient health issues."
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences under the title "Democratic and Republican physicians provide different care on politicized health issues" in the Oct. 3 edition.
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