In a new study published in the journal of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”, Yale researchers have linked physician’s choices regarding patient care to publicly available information regarding their personal political views.
The study, using 233 physicians who did not know that the survey was about their politics, presented hypothetical scenarios involving politically charged issues. They found a significant difference between democrat or republican leaning physicians in how concerned they would be about an issue, or how likely they’d be to engage in potential treatment options.
For example, republicans were most concerned about issues pertaining to marijuana use or multiple prior abortions. They were twice as likely as democrats to discourage future abortions, and 35 percent more likely to discuss mental health in connection with abortions.
Democratic physicians also altered their care according to their political beliefs. Democrats were most concerned with firearm access and patients who had sexual relationships with sex workers. They were more likely to discuss firearm storage with patients who had young children in the household.
As discussed in ‘Unscientific America’, politics can help or harm scientific advancement, but they should not have a place in a hospital. Doctors and other care-givers should be aware of their own personal prejudiced, but should also be capable of administering proper care without being influenced by them. On the other hand, it is important for the patients to be aware of how a doctor’s ideological biases might affect their judgment and advice. For example, a highly religious, right-leaning doctor may be hesitant to suggest an abortion even in high risk pregnancies.
The fact that physicians can be swayed by personal beliefs in providing objective care could have high reaching consequences. Could it potentially stop people from seeking care at religious hospitals? How could a doctor’s opinions change the care of LGBTQA+ individuals? As a society it is our duty to seek out and rid ourselves of these biases.