Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The color of your skin means you're not in pain

Very sad news via CNN.

A new study shows that emergency room doctors are prescribing strong narcotics (morphine, oxycodone etc) more often to patients who complain of pain. However white people get them more than minorities.

In more than 2,000 visits for kidney stones, whites got narcotics 72 percent of the time, Hispanics 68 percent, Asians 67 percent and blacks 56 percent.

Side Rant: Just a quick "duh" statement, if you'll pardon me:
72 percent vs. 56 percent is a big FUCKING disparity!

Minorities were slightly more likely than whites to get aspirin, ibuprofen and similar drugs for pain.

Wow. That's so distressing I don't know where to begin.

Over a year ago I was rushed to the ER with terrible abdominal pain. Even though I was 22, I remember being so scared that I was crying for my mother. I had never felt pain like that. Luckily, I had a very good doctor who, as soon as possible, hooked me up to an IV that made the pain stop. When it did, I could thankfully fall asleep.

Side Note: They found a large tumor on my ovary, which luckily (oh so luckily) for me, turned out to be benign.

The pain that I was in that night made me terribly afraid. It's horrifying to think that my white skin was the deciding factor in me getting adequate help vs. ibuprofen.

Obviously, ER doctors have to be careful and watch for drug seekers. But it's a HUGE stereotype to assume that drug seekers are minorities-- and it's an incorrect assumption at that:

The irony is that blacks are the least likely group to abuse prescription drugs. Hispanics are becoming as likely as whites to abuse prescription opioids and stimulants, according to research.

One doctor in the story commented that 'everyone has social bias' but it's especially disturbing to see this affecting our healthcare in this way. Witholding pain medication when someone is passing kidney stones is akin to torture. And there's something particularly telling that minorities are targeted. Is the bias against drug-seeking minorities, or do you just NOT CARE if those different from you are in pain?

If I were a doctor in the ER, maybe I would be just as bad. I can already tell you I may refuse pain meds to certain people based on my "social bias" --- only I'd pick shitty, white conservative pundits with proven history of drug seeking. This means you, Rush Limbaugh.


crazybitch said...

Wow, there's one I never thought about. Sadly, I'm not surprised.

Glad you brought this up, it's important to keep it in the public consciousness.

Adrienne said...

My dad has hair down to his waist and a long shaggy beard. When he went in with abdominal a few years ago, he wasn't given anything for the pain, not even an aspirin.