U.S. doctors often mistreated by patients, families, study finds

Many doctors in the United States are mistreated by patients or their families, according to a new study. Photo by fernandozhiminaicela/<a href="">Pixabay</a>
Many doctors in the United States are mistreated by patients or their families, according to a new study. Photo by fernandozhiminaicela/Pixabay

May 19 (UPI) -- Nearly one-third of doctors in the United States have experienced mistreatment from patients or their families, including racist or sexist remarks, a study published Thursday found.

Among more than 6,500 responding physicians from across the country, just under 30% said they were "subjected to racially or ethnically offensive remarks" within the past year, data published Thursday by JAMA Network Open showed.


A similar percentage indicated they had had "offensive sexist remarks" directed toward them at least once over the past year, while just over one in five said they experienced "unwanted sexual advances" from patients, their families or other visitors over the same period, the researchers said.

In addition, roughly one in five physicians surveyed said a patient or their family refused to allow them to provide care because of the physician's personal attributes, such as race or gender, according to the researchers.

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"Physicians commonly experience mistreatment and discrimination by patients, families and visitors," study co-author Dr. Lotte Dyrbye told UPI.

"Everyone has a role in addressing prejudice, harassment and mistreatment, including the government, the press, medical institutions, healthcare workers and the public, said Dyrbye, senior associate dean of faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.


Recent surveys of patients have suggested that race and gender do not affect how they view their doctors.

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However, doctors who report being victimized by racial/ethnic and/or gender bias are up to twice as likely to experience burnout, Dyrbye and her colleagues found.

Female physicians were more than twice as likely to be victims of mistreatment or discrimination from patients, families or visitors, compared with their male peers, the data showed.

Black or African American physicians had a 59% higher risk for mistreatment or discrimination than White doctors, the researchers said.

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The survey did not ask whether bias incidents have increased or decreased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, they said.

"Physicians who have [these] experiences are more likely to be burned out," Dyrbye said.

And, "When physicians are burned out, they are more likely to leave their practice, reduce their time taking care of patients, make medical mistakes and deliver more costly care to patients," she said.

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