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Health Bull (Edinb). 2000 May;58(3):198-202.

Ageism helps to ration medical treatment.

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  • 1Medicine for the Elderly Department, Gartnavel General Hospital, Great Western Road, Glasgow.


The world's population is ageing and this will have inevitable consequences for the demands on acute and longer term health care resources. Old age is rarely characterised by positive images and older age stereotypes are often unflattering and ugly. Many older people experience social exclusion as a result of low income, poor housing, little family support, isolation, disability and illness. Ageism is a prejudice which is invoked to deny older people the things they seek and ageism in medicine probably reflects ageism in society as a whole. Old age is a criterion for rationing health care resources and it occurs at all levels in the National Health Service. Older subjects are often excluded from research trials, have their surgical operations cancelled too often and are less often accepted for cardiological investigation and intervention. Women over 65 are not routinely invited for breast cancer screening and, once they are diagnosed, they may not be offered the same treatment as younger women. Ageism in clinical practice should be combated by better education of healthcare workers and treatment decisions should only be taken on an individual basis and not on stereotypical views. 'Age, I do abhor thee, Youth, I do adore thee.' Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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