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article imageDoctor's political preferences influence their recommendations

By Tim Sandle     Oct 15, 2016 in Politics
Washington - The treatment options recommended by a medical doctor appear to be influenced by their political leanings (as expressed by party preference), according to a new study.
At its best medicine is evidence based, where doctors assess signs and symptoms and offer the lowest-cost, most effective treatment in a logical and dispassionate way. In reality, as Digital Journal has reported, the modern world of lobbyists, payments, health insurance systems and so on as influential for some medics. For the U.K., for example, see "Peeking at the payments made to doctors." In the U.S., the need for reform of how doctors are paid has been raised by President Obama.
Withe world of big pharma lobbying and payment mechanisms in the public eye, what about political leanings? Are you likely to receive a different treatment recommendation for a given set of symptoms from a conservative leaning doctor compared with a liberal one or a socialist?
There may be something in this according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study outcome indicates that, consciously or subconsciously, doctors allow their political beliefs to bleed into the way they care for patients. This study relates to the U.S. only and it considers the Democrat and Republican parties. On the spectrum of political differences, the ideological differences between these two parties of capital is quite small; nonetheless, as the current presidential campaign has shown, there are differences relating to taxes, attitudes to women and minorities, and with spending priorities.
The study shows that, demographically, the medical profession mirrors how many in the U.S. divide up. Here, as The Slate summarizes: "men, higher-paid specialists, and older doctors tend to identify as Republican, while women, lower-paid specialists, and younger doctors lean Democrat." This is a different demographic to the U.K., where the majority doctors, irrespective of their earnings, support the socialist Labour Party.
For the study, doctors who agreed to take part were given nine patient vignettes to examine. Of these, three cases addressed especially politicized health issues (marijuana, abortion, and firearm storage). It was found that with the politicized health issues "Democratic and Republican physicians differed substantially in their expressed concern and their recommended treatment plan."
This led the study authors to conclude that on political issues (and only on these issues), then "physician partisan bias can lead to unwarranted variation in patient care."
The PNAS study is titled "Democratic and Republican physicians provide different care on politicized health issues."
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