Bioethics News

The Long History of Discrimination in Pain Medicine

February 28, 2017

(The Atlantic) – This idea of objectivity in assessing pain plays a major role in the debate over “railway spine,” a constellation of symptoms suffered by people in train collisions. (It’s sometimes likened to 19th-century whiplash.) Railroad companies were not keen to compensate victims for these vague symptoms. The emergence of objectivity influenced the stigma around patients who suffered from pain without visible injury—and this stigma ends up overlapping with stigma that already exist along race, gender, and class lines. The same issues reverberate today, in how doctors discount women’s pain or prescribe opioids to African Americans less frequently.

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