Medical doctors are among the most highly educated of all professionals. Many people tend to think of doctors as more ethical than people in other professions because they make a career out of caring for others. Unfortunately, medicine doesn’t automatically make someone a good person or give them the moral high ground. Medical professionals can have the same human failings as everyone else, including problematic personal biases and internal prejudices.
Unlike people in other professions, however, doctors are in a position to allow their personal biases to impact the health and safety of others. Women and people of color, especially black Americans, are at increased risk for doctors ignoring their symptoms of distress. Pain, in particular, is treated differently when it is experienced by those patients.
Doctors seem to think that black people and women feel less pain or lie about it
Self-reported information about patient care provided by doctors has proved crucial for demonstrating how common racial and gender bias is in medical care. A frightening number of doctors and medical students (as many as 40%) think that black people have skin that is literally thicker than the skin of people with lighter complexions, and many of them also believe that black people experience lower levels of pain or are more likely to lie about pain to get drugs.
Many physicians also downplay chronic symptoms and pain when reported by women, mentally considering them to be attention-seeking or dramatic instead of honest in their assessment of physical discomfort.
The result of doctors not listening to patients and not treating everyone the same is that women and people of color often don’t receive adequate pain management and may go far longer without an accurate diagnosis than white males.
If you believe that biased about gender or race led to you not receiving care or getting misdiagnosed, you may want to discuss your concerns with a lawyer to see if you have any legal options.