Doctors, Political Bias and Medicinal Marijuana

Doctors' medicinal marijuana views
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It appears political leanings have the potential to affect how some doctors in the USA approach the issue of medical cannabis in terms of treating their patients.

A recent study out of Yale University involving 300 doctors indicates Republicans and Democrats view the issue of marijuana (and several other hot-button issues) differently enough that it could impact their medical advice.

Controls for demographics of doctors in the survey such as age, gender, and religion, and patient population plus geography were implemented when designing the study.

While physicians of both parties rated similarly on non-political issues such as depression, alcohol abuse and obesity, Republican physicians expressed more concern than Democrats about marijuana use.

“The evidence suggests that doctors allow their political views to influence their professional decisions in the medical exam room,” said Eitan Hersh, co-author of the study, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale and ISPS Resident Faculty Fellow.

While the example used in the study relating to marijuana appeared to be around recreational use; it raises the question of whether the bias would also extend to cannabis used for medicinal purposes.

According to Ventura County Star, which reported on the study, Professor Hersh has a family member with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who changed medical practitioners as the first was uncomfortable prescribing medical marijuana. Political affiliation of the first doctor was not clear in the media outlet’s report.

A paper on the study, “Democratic and Republican Physicians Provide Different Care on Politicized Health Issues”, has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In Australia, political leanings may not lead to potential bias as medical cannabis appears to have support among all major political parties. What may come into play however, is somewhat of a hangover from the demonisation of cannabis that, like in the USA, had been so prevalent in the country for decades and has tainted views.

Politics aside, Doctors in the USA has had more time to get used to medical cannabis. More than half of all U.S. states now permit it in some form – with some having done so for decades.