Health & Medicine

Doctors’ politics affect how patients treated, study finds

A new study from Yale University suggests that on politically sensitive health issues such as abortion and marijuana use, patients receive substantially different care depending on whether their doctor is a Democrat or Republican.

The researchers surveyed 20,000 Democratic and Republican doctors from 29 states to evaluate nine patient vignettes, three of which addressed politicized health issues: marijuana use, firearms storage and abortion, according to a news release about the study.

The physicians rated the seriousness of the health issue presented in each vignette and their likelihood of recommending certain treatment plans. Their answers only differed on the politicized issues, with Republican physicians expressing more concern about the vignettes related to marijuana use and abortion, and Democratic physicians expressing more concern about the vignette related to firearms.

Democratic doctors were more likely to urge patients against storing firearms in the home while Republican physicians were more likely to counsel patients to consider the mental health risks of abortion and cut down on marijuana use, according to the release. The results were published in the Oct. 3 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Just as patients choose physicians of a certain gender to feel more comfortable, our study suggests they may want to make a similar calculation based on their doctor’s political views,” said Eitan Hersh, an assistant professor of political science at Yale and a co-author of the study, in the release.

Ovary removal dangerous for young women

A Mayo Clinic study released last week reveals that premenopausal women who undergo bilateral oophorectomy, or double ovarian removal surgery, to prevent ovarian cancer may be putting themselves at higher risk for other chronic conditions such as coronary artery disease, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease down the line.

The research suggests that the premature loss of estrogen after the surgery “may affect a series of aging mechanisms at the cellular and tissue level across the whole body leading to diseases in multiple systems and organs,” according to a Mayo Clinic news release.

The surgery made headlines this year after 39-year-old actress Angelina Jolie underwent the procedure, just two years after undergoing a double mastectomy, which the American Society of Breast Surgeons issued a position paper against earlier this year.

The ovarian surgery study, which is published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, followed about 1,600 women under age 50 who had undergone a bilateral oophorectomy and an equal number of women who did not, for a period of 14 years. At the end of the studied period, the women who had the surgery had a 4 percent higher incidence rate of all 18 chronic conditions measured.

The researchers concluded that double ovarian removal “should not be considered an ethically acceptable option for the prevention of ovarian cancer in average-risk women.”

“The clinical recommendation is simple and clear,” said lead author Dr. Walter Rocca in the release. “In the absence of a documented high risk genetic variant, bilateral oophorectomy before the age of 50 years (or before menopause) is never to be considered and should not be offered as an option to women.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola