Forget religion: For doctors, patient care is all about hot-button social issues






Welcome back to sound-like-a-broken-record time here at GetReligion. Once again, we have a news organization — and in this case, university researchers — viewing the world through totally political lenses. As opposed to, you know, exploring questions of religion and morality.

No doubt, the headline is the kind of clickbait that will generate a lot of page views:

But is this really a case of doctors' political affiliation being the key factor? 

Here's the lede from the Washington Post:

How will your doctor help you deal with issues like pregnancy, drug use or safety? A new study suggests that instead of looking at their résumés or diplomas, you might want to check their voting record. Apparently, Democratic and Republican doctors don’t just vote differently. When faced with hypothetical scenarios involving politically charged issues, they make different treatment decisions, too.
In a new study published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of Yale researchers linked publicly available information on more than 42,000 practicing physicians to a list of party affiliations that’s regularly used by political campaigns to target communications. After winnowing down their data to correct for unaffiliated and unreachable physicians, they mailed out a survey to a sample of the doctors.

From later in the piece:

The treatment plans doctors said they would probably pursue also differed by party affiliation. Democratic doctors were less likely to discuss the health risks of marijuana, highlight its legal risks or encourage the patient to cut down use. Republican doctors were twice as likely as Democrats to discourage patients from having more abortions in the future and 35 percent more likely to discuss mental health in connection with abortions.

But could religious beliefs play as big a role — or bigger — in the doctors' patient care?

The Post reports that the researchers "controlled for variables such as the demographic composition of a physician’s patient population and the gender, age and religious attendance of doctors." 

Really? How? The story doesn't say, and the link provided by the Post goes to an abstract, not the full study.

Thus, readers are left with this message: It's all about the politics.

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