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Doctors Less Sympathetic With Black Patients

A recent study published in the January issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management highlights racial bias in treatment received by patients by doctors towards the end of their lives.

Using actors to portray dying hospital patients, the study revealed that Black “patients” received less compassionate care from real doctors than their white counterparts.

Researchers studied 33 hospital-based doctors from western Pennsylvania. Actors read from matching scripts while exhibiting the same vital signs. While doctors knew they were involved in a study, they were not aware of what researchers were observing.

The results were disturbing.

“Although we found that physicians said the same things to their Black and white patients, communication is not just the spoken word,” wrote Dr. Amber E. Barnato, senior author and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It also involves nonverbal cues, such as eye contact, body positioning and touch.”

When interacting with white “patients,” doctors tended to stand close to the bedside and were more likely to touch the person in a sympathetic way.

With Blacks, the doctors were more inclined to stand at the door of the hospital room and used their hands to hold a binder–a posture that could make them appear defensive or disengaged.

Researchers analyzed audio and video recordings of the interactions, and gave each doctor a score for nonverbal behavior.

Read more at Huffington Post.