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J Pain. 2003 Nov;4(9):505-10.

The influence of gender and race on physicians' pain management decisions.

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Department of Psychology, Union College, Schenectady, New York 12308, USA.


This study set out to examine whether gender or race influences physicians' pain management decisions in a national sample of 712 (414 men, 272 women) practicing physicians. Medical vignettes were used to vary patient gender and race experimentally while holding symptom presentation constant. Treatment decisions were assessed by calculating maximum permitted doses of narcotic analgesic (hydrocodone) prescribed for initial pain treatment and for follow-up care. No overall differences by patient gender or race were found in decisions to treat or in maximum permitted doses. However, for persistent back pain, female physicians prescribed lower doses of hydrocodone, especially to male patients. For renal colic, lower doses were prescribed to black versus white patients when the patient was female, whereas the reverse was true when patients were male. These findings challenge a fairly extensive literature suggesting that physicians treat women and minorities less aggressively for their pain, and results offer further evidence that pain treatment decisions are influenced physician gender.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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