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Bias in Medicine: Under-Served Patient Populations

September 5, 2019

There is an overlooked and harsh reality many patients face in our medical system: bias.  In the American healthcare system, gender and/or race can impact a person’s access to appropriate health care and treatment. The impact of bias in medicine is a danger to patient safety and can be the difference between life and death.

The most common form of bias found in healthcare is “confirmation bias.”  Unconsciously everybody likes to be right and confirmation bias is an example of this. Individuals tend to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms his or her preexisting beliefs. In health care, this can lead to harmful outcomes. Antecedent thoughts about a patient’s condition can lead to misdiagnosis and potentially incorrect treatment approaches. Most commonly, confirmation bias occurs with women or races other than Caucasian.

A recent Wall Street Journal article indicated “women [were] seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed…and sent home from the hospital…” for a heart attack. This is where confirmation bias comes into play.  The article went on to explain that some perceive women as being chronic complainers, causing a medical complaint to not be taken seriously. Healthcare providers take an oath to treat all patients equally and safely, yet not all patients are treated equally well. Discrimination is deeply ingrained in the social, political, and economic structures of our society, and the healthcare industry is not exempt from bias.

What can be done to combat bias in medicine? Some solutions are standardizing care, having doctors and medical students take non-bias training, and having more diversity in the medical field.  More general solutions include recognizing, naming, and understanding bias attitudes and actions. Further, we need to be able to manage overt bigotry safely, learn from it, and educate others. Most importantly, patients must advocate for themselves and their loved ones.

Perhaps you or a loved one recently visited a hospital and experienced patient safety violations from bias by healthcare providers.  If the violations caused a devastating result, seek legal recourse immediately. It is important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your rights. Michigan law is unfair to people injured by medical professionals and any delay seeking legal help can mean losing your right to reimbursement. A medical malpractice lawsuit must, typically, be brought within 2 years after the medical error (e.g., surgery date) or be barred forever.

The Michigan medical malpractice attorneys at Buchanan Firm have decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases involving patient safety violations from bias by healthcare providers. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assesses the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.