HealthDay News — A doctor’s political beliefs can sway their treatment decisions, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Eitan D. Hersh, PhD, and Matthew N. Goldenberg, MD, of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, surveyed primary care doctors in 29 states on how they would deal with different types of patient health concerns, including abortion, firearms, and marijuana use.

While Republican and Democratic doctors had similar views about general issues such as depression, alcohol abuse, and obesity, there were significant differences when it came to political hot-button topics. Republican doctors expressed more concern than Democratic doctors about marijuana use and abortion, while Democratic physicians were more concerned about firearms. Democratic doctors were more likely to urge patients not to keep guns in the home, while Republican doctors were more likely to warn patients about the mental health risks of abortion. Republicans were also more inclined to advise patients to reduce marijuana use and consider the legal risks.

“Given the politicization of certain health issues affecting countless patients, it is imperative that physicians consider how their political views may affect their professional judgments,” Dr Goldenberg said in a university new release. He added that the study findings indicate the need for more training concerning “biases in how we address politically salient health issues.”

Disclosures: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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  1. Hersh ED, Goldenberg MN. Democratic and Republican physicians provide different care on politicized health issues. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2016 Oct 3. doi:10.1073/pnas.1606609113 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Cummings M. Physicians’ political beliefs affect medical treatment [news release]. New Haven, CT: Yale News; October 3, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.