Bioethics Blogs

Physician’s Political View: Does It Matter? It Might.

Did you suspect that your physician’s political views may affect your doctor’s medical advice and attention to you as his or her patient?  If you suspect that they do, this is supported by a study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. by Eitan D. Hersh and Matthew N. Goldenberg and summarized by this Abstract:

Physicians frequently interact with patients about politically salient health issues, such as drug use, firearm safety, and sexual behavior. We investigate whether physicians’ own political views affect their treatment decisions on these issues. We linked the records of over 20,000 primary care physicians in 29 US states to a voter registration database, obtaining the physicians’ political party affiliations. We then surveyed a sample of Democratic and Republican primary care physicians. Respondents evaluated nine patient vignettes, three of which addressed especially politicized health issues (marijuana, abortion, and firearm storage). Physicians rated the seriousness of the issue presented in each vignette and their likelihood of engaging in specific management options. On the politicized health issues—and only on such issues—Democratic and Republican physicians differed substantially in their expressed concern and their recommended treatment plan. We control for physician demographics (like age, gender, and religiosity), patient population, and geography. Physician partisan bias can lead to unwarranted variation in patient care. Awareness of how a physician’s political attitudes might affect patient care is important to physicians and patients alike.

For those visitors here who have no access to the Proceedings, you can read the details of the findings in an  October 3 2016 Atlantic article.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.