Health, Science

Study Shows Doctors Falsely Believe Black Patients Feel Less Pain than White Patients

It’s 2016, and despite racism still existing powerfully within our societies, one would at least think scientists have trespassed that. But as it turns out, doctors are still very much ignorant when it comes to the biology of races.

A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that black patients are still systematically under-treated for pain, since many white doctors still believe that blacks have a higher pain threshold than white. The study evaluated 222 white medical students and residents and found that around half of them harbored false beliefs about the biological differences between the 2 races. And those same ones were more likely to suggest improper pain treatments for black patients.

The overall survey studied 100 laypeople and over 400 medical students and residents of all racial groups. They were all asked several test questions such as whether or not “black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s nerve ending” – which professionals say is false – and whether or not “whites are less likely to have a stroke than blacks” – which professionals say is true. Moreover, the tested people were also asked to imagine the level of pain a white patient or a black patient would feel if for instance they had slammed their hands in a car door, and then asked to suggest a proper treatment.

The number of people with false beliefs was among all racial groups, though especially among the white respondents. They believed blacks felt less pain than whites, and showed a 15% chance of giving less accurate medical advice. However, for non-white false believers, their perception of pain and their treatment accuracy did not correlate.

Dr. David Satin, an assistant professor at the University Of Minnesota Medical School on the topics of race, says that for these believes to exist is shocking. He thinks that teaching medical students to think critically about race is vital. He gave another example of false racial beliefs; a survey among second-year medical students was conduct and showed 28% of then believed black people aged more slowly than white people

Other studies exist proving that racial false beliefs still exist among medical practitioners. A study published last year showed that black kids in the ER with appendicitis received less pain treatments than white kids. Another one published 2 years ago showed that black veterans were less likely to be prescribed opioids for moderate to high levels of pain when compare to their white counterparts.

Professionals who published these studies believe that medical students should be taught how implicit bias impacts are, and how to move past these false beliefs.