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How a doctor’s hidden biases can impact your medical care

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2021 | Failure To Diagnose & Misdiagnosis

Doctors are highly educated and licensed professionals who understand the human body well enough to determine the cause of symptoms that people experience. They have the knowledge and skills to treat traumatic injuries, perform operations recommend medicines.

Unfortunately, not all patients have access to the same caliber of care. Physicians are human, after all, and they are subject to biases that affect how they interact with their patients. While any one physician may have personal biases, research about the medical care people receive in the United States makes it clear that two different populations tend to receive worse care than other people.

Racial bias affects the care received by people of color

Inaccurate stereotypes and widespread but subtle racial discrimination affect the medical care of millions of Americans. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff may view patients with darker skin tones less favorably.

It is more common for doctors to be immediately suspicious of patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds if they come reporting pain than they might be of a white patient. Some doctors even believe inaccurate medical stereotypes about different skin colors, like the medically unfounded idea that those with darker skin tones generally have higher pain tolerance. These beliefs are often unspoken and can drastically reduce the quality of care that certain patients receive.

People in medicine just don’t seem to trust women

Like patients from diverse racial backgrounds, women often face dismissive attitudes from medical care providers that results in a failure to diagnose them. Doctors may ignore or downplay self-reported symptoms. They may also fail to familiarize themselves with the ways that potentially life-threatening medical events present themselves differently in women.

Both heart attacks and strokes can look different when a woman experiences them versus when a man does. If medical professionals don’t make an effort to close the gap between the largely male-centric education they received and the more modern understanding of how women present symptoms, they might overlook possibly deadly conditions in the people they treat.

Racial and sex-based biases can mean that you don’t receive adequate pain management or an accurate diagnosis. If you believe that personal prejudice based on your race or sex influenced the care you received, especially if it meant that you did not receive a timely and accurate diagnosis, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.