Survey finds rampant discrimination in health care

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
A new poll finds that 45% of voters with an advance directive or living will have shared it with their healthcare proxy but just 18% have shared it with their doctor as well. Photo Credit: WavebreakMediaMicro / Adobe Stock

In a new poll, 25% of voters say they have “personally experienced or witnessed discrimination in health care due to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation.” The poll, sponsored by Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life care advocacy group, included more than 1,600 voters from California and across the United States.

“It was striking that one-quarter of voters report that they personally experienced or witnessed discrimination in health care, with an even higher 35% among Black people, 29% among Hispanics and 41% among people who are LGBT,” said pollster Amy Simon, a partner at Goodman Simon Strategic Research. “That translates to millions of people who are experiencing health-care discrimination.”

Negative experiences included patients who said they don’t feel heard or have been prescribed insufficient pain medication to ease suffering. Statistics show patients of color have significantly worse health outcomes compared with their white counterparts.

Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan said one way to reduce discrimination and solution is to make sure high-quality palliative care is available in low-income neighborhoods, not just in wealthier areas.

“Clinicians need to focus on improving their cultural intelligence so that they’re able to effectively interact with people who are different from them,” Callinan emphasized. “We also need to prioritize the recruitment of a more diverse clinician pool, so that people see other people that look like them.”

The survey also addressed attitudes toward end-of-life care and found a huge majority think their end-of-life wishes will be respected, although only 37% had completed an advance directive or living will, and just 36% said they had appointed a health-care proxy.