The Long History of Discrimination in Pain Medicine


From The Atlantic: Throughout history, doctors have often stigmatized and discounted patients suffering from pain without visible injury. The rise of X-rays and other “objective” instruments, which have rendered some previously unseeable injuries visible, as well as widespread concern about opioid addiction, have influenced physicians’ decisions about whose pain should be believed.

“I think health-care providers are well aware that we have illness complaints that defy objective modalities. Of course there are! And they know in the abstract that doesn’t make them less real.

But that cognitive knowledge—I don’t think that necessarily translates into practice as well as we might like. The entire practice of health care is the anatomo-clinical method. What do we do? We objectify illness. We try to find using all sorts of objective tools—whether it’s imaging, whether it’s lab tests, blood draws—we try to find material pathologies that we can clinically correlate with their illness complaints.”

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