Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Easing The Pain

A new study suggests that hospital emergency rooms under-treat pain in black and Hispanic patients. This matters, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because recent theories in medicine encourage early pain control for good recovery.

What causes this difference? The articles I linked to above offer several guesses, ranging from racism to the fear that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to ask for stronger drugs in order to sell them or to abuse them. Of course the latter belief might itself arise from racism if the person's skin color or ethnic group is the only indicator used in that decision-making. Access to health insurance (and therefore income) and educational differences may also explain some of the difference.

That the under-treatment exists for patients under twelve and for those in severe pain appears to disprove the drug-abuse explanation, at least as the only explanation.