A new study has discovered that your physician's political views can have an influence on your treatment if you use marijuana.
Researchers at Yale University came to this conclusion after surveying more than 200 primary care physicians in several states. The findings show that Democratic and Republican doctors have different attitudes to politically charged health topics like cannabis consumption, abortion, or firearm safety.
The scientists have discovered that the medical field, which should be based solely on science and objectiveness, is not free of political issues that impact doctors' decisions on treating their patients.
Politics affects the way people think and make their judgments, and even physicians can be biased, as Eitan Hersh, the co-author of the study and assistant professor at Yale University, concluded after analyzing the study results.
The survey showed that Democratic doctors were less likely to discuss the mental outcomes of abortion than their Republican colleagues. In addition, Republicans are also more likely to consider weed smoking a serious issue and suggest their patients stop smoking pot. In their turn, Democrats tend to advise patients not to store fire guns at home.
In their everyday work, doctors very often deal with politically sensitive issues, including drug usage, LGBT health, or palliative care. The surveyed physicians provided similar responses on nonpolitical topics, but the questions that were related to political issues were answered differently.
For instance, answering the question about marijuana usage, all Republicans responded that it might lead to health problems, while all Democrats said that it was nothing serious at all.
To get fair answers, researchers checked doctors' political party registrations and also included general issues in the questionnaire. Besides, scientists paid attention to the doctors' age, gender, and religiosity, which also may influence physicians' decision-making.
The study participants filled out surveys with hypothetical scenarios about patients who had potentially concerning issues in their health histories. Then they had to rank each question on a scale of 1 to 10 to evaluate the importance of the provided issues.
Despite other possible contributing factors, politics seemed to be the main reason for differences in the doctors' responses. However, the study authors said there was a need for further studies to confirm the received findings and determine the scope of the problem. They are also concerned that political orientation of primary care physicians may be only one side of the problem, as previous studies revealed that some doctors might treat patients depending on their race or ethnicity.
Some public organizations even recommend patients to look for physicians who will be best suited for their situation. For instance, the Human Rights Campaign advises people to consult an online directory of LGBT-friendly doctors, while the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers to check out the online list of pro-life physicians.
If you feel that the treatment decision of your doctor is not based on medical evidence or you are choosing a new physician, you can look up their political position in public records.