Do The Poor Sue Their Physicians More Often?Cases
It is common for physicians to believe that they are more likely to be sued by their low-income patients. This belief is severely detrimental to patients in many ways. Not only do these doctors tend to avoid treating this patient population but they also may treat them differently than other populations.
However a new study published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research reviewed litigation rates in medical malpractice suits and found that low-income patients actually sue less often than other groups. This is likely due to their lack of access to legal assistance.
The study labeled the doctors’ false belief in malpractice rates as “unconscious bias” and suggested that these doctors hold prejudices and stereotypes about the patients they treat, especially low-income patients. The bias may or may not stem from an actual experience of being sued by the low-income patient population more frequently, but likely is born from other prejudices held against the patients. Unfortunately, this makes these doctors less likely to treat low-income patients or other patients they may hold certain biases against.
Additionally, the author of the study suggests that doctors may use the belief that there is a higher risk of being sued by low-income patient in order to avoid treating these patients because it is often times more difficult to collect financial reimbursements from this population.
It is important that medical schools begin to educate physicians on cultural differences. The schools need to address the growing diverse population that includes people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, various sexual orientation, race, religion, and ethnicity.
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