Women, Minorities Often Receive ‘Inferior’ Pain Management
Women, minorities and the elderly are more likely to receive substandard treatment for pain, partly due to some common racial and gender stereotypes, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Previous studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association have documented the discrepancies in pain treatment among patients from different age and ethnic groups, and several physicians have confirmed that not all patients receive the same level of treatment. Reed Tuckson, former senior vice president for professional standards for the American Medical Association, said that inferior pain treatment for minorities stems from "prejudice, stereotyping and ignorance." Tuckson said, for example, that patients with sickle cell anemia -- a disease that is more common among African Americans than other ethnic groups -- are "routinely" dismissed as drug addicts when they go to the hospital for pain medication. June Dahl, professor of medicine and neurology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and "one of the world's renowned experts on pain control," added, "[I]t is assumed in this country that African Americans seeking an opiate must either be drug-crazed or drug-seeking and therefore [patients with sickle cell anemia] have been terribly mistreated." Dahl added that for women, physicians may also have a "sense that they are hysterical, that they exaggerate and that they are neurotic." Kathryn Tucker, director of legal affairs for Compassion in Dying, said that on the whole, women, minorities and the elderly are the "least likely to assert themselves" when they receive inferior pain treatment, thus posing few "repercussions" for physicians who do not properly treat them. However, some patients are "fighting back," filing lawsuits or forming advocacy groups, such as Sickle Cell Advocates for Research and Empowerment, which supports those with sickle cell anemia in the New York area (Rosenberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.