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Age, race and gender may affect the likelihood of pain treatment

It can be tough to get someone to believe in your chronic pain. The only one who is experiencing it is you—and it’s probably completely invisible to others.

When the person who doesn’t believe you is your doctor, you may not get the help you need. But the reasons you aren’t getting treatment might have nothing to do with the actual cause of your pain.

Certain groups are often ignored

Many studies show that doctors are biased against some groups. The most common one is women—who tend to receive medication for their chronic pain less often than men.

One study found that 91% of women felt that doctors discriminated against them because of their gender, and almost half were told that the pain was just in their head. Compared to men, women wait longer on average to receive medication in the emergency room—if they receive medication at all.

The bias extends to different racial and age groups as well. Research shows that black patients receive pain medication 22% less often than white patients. There also tends to be a biased opinion that minority patients are more likely to abuse pain killers. Pain is also more frequently ignored in the elderly and in very young children who do not have the verbal skills to communicate pain.

Why do doctors believe some people more than others?

There are two main reasons for these disparities. The first is that doctors tend to empathize more with people from their own racial group. About 72% of doctors in the U.S. are white—and they tend to show better care to white patients. It’s important to note that this may be an unconscious bias. Doctors may not realize that they are doing this.

Besides that, some doctors just believe incorrect myths about certain groups. There are some false beliefs about certain ages, genders and races in the medical field, such as:

  • Women are supposed to experience more physical pain—so their pain doesn’t need to be treated
  • Feeling pain is just a part of growing older
  • Some racial groups feel less pain—so they need less treatment
  • Young children cry about everything, so this isn’t indicative of pain

Not all doctors think this way—but it only takes one to deny you treatment and leave you hurting. If your medical provider failed to treat your chronic pain, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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