Study Shows Differences In Access To Pain Treatment

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A recent Journalof the American Medical Association study that found minorities are lesslikely than whites to receive narcotic painkillers at emergency departments"underscores the deeply entrenched problem of racial and ethnic healthcare disparities in American medicine," Kate Scannell, a physician andsyndicated columnist, writes in the Freemont Argus.

Scannell notes that disparities in pain treatment have been known for years,and the JAMA study "shows how recalcitrant they've remaineddespite sizable public and professional campaigns to address and redressthem." She adds that part of the problem is that "there is noreliable yardstick by which to measure someone else's pain or to calculate itsperfect remedy." According to Scannell, "Disparities in painassessment and treatment aren't justified by any good measure of medicaltechnology. Rather, these disparities are humanly created and sociallyconstructed." Pain relief "can be further compromised when patientslack insurance, health care finances, and the means and opportunity to obtain amedical provider," Scannell writes.

She adds, "The disregard and undertreatment of someone's pain is a poormedical practice that harms patients in various ways. It is dehumanizing inthat it dismisses the subjective suffering of another person." Scannellstates, "Clearly, we all have much work to do to make health care deliverya more just and humane system for minority patients" (Scannell, FreemontArgus, 1/27).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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