Combating medical ageism

If you're an elderly person and think your doctor respects you and values you as much as younger people, think again. The medical profession has done a remarkable job of hoodwinking patients into thinking that professional attitudes run through every fiber of almost every doctor's mind, but in reality, there is a pervasive ageism in medicine. More than a few doctors and nurses think you would do the world a favor by dying and getting the heck off this planet and out of their lives. Elderly folks often have too many problems, most of which can't be solved. It is so much easier dealing with younger protoplasm, and the more youthful folks often have better insurance to boot.

Complaints By The Elderly: Valuable Information Or Trivialities?
Excerpt: “[Two studies show] that staff, as well as social services directors in local administrations, often trivialize complaints from the elderly.”

Perceived age, weight discrimination worse for health than perceived racism, sexism

One way to combat this ageism is for you or your family to (for example) put pictures of you in your prime in your hospital room. I saw one elderly patient whose lifetime occupations and accomplishments were listed by his family on a wall chart. When doctors read it, I could tell they were impressed and thereafter treated him differently—as if he wasn't just a blob of old flesh and bones, but a full-dimensional person who once was a very productive member of society—surely someone who didn't deserve to be swept into the grave soon after his productivity ended.

You can also reduce the reflexive discriminatory effects of ageism by having family members accompany you and express concern. It's simple but often effective.



  1. The House of God, although fictional, portrays real attitudes, including some real despicable ones. As a physician reviewer wrote on Amazon, “I hated having in print the real feelings of an intern who has been up for three days—praying on the way to the ER that that Nursing Home Gomer with 20 fatal diagnoses would have the decency to croak before you got there so you could get an extra five minutes of sleep or a stale doughnut before the cafeteria closed again.”
  2. slim versus obese woman
    People generally prefer others who are slim. According to research, doctors do, too. Speaking as a doctor, I think this is odd because obese patients need more help, which is what we're trained to deliver. My definition of a “good patient” is one with multiple problems (especially challenging ones) that I can solve. Perhaps the anti-obese bias of physicians stems from their ineptitude in managing that problem and disorders related to it.
  3. Doctors are biased against obese people, too: Anti-Fat Bias May Be Equally Prevalent in General Public and Medical Community based on Implicit and Explicit Anti-Fat Bias among a Large Sample of Medical Doctors by BMI, Race/Ethnicity and Gender
  4. Physicians Have Less Respect For Obese Patients, Study Suggests
  5. Older Workers Say Age Bias Is Common
  6. Are Doctors Neglecting Their Older Patients?
  7. Ageism reduced by education, intergenerational contact
  8. Older people denied proper access to cancer care, according to study
    Comment: Here is a shocking example of medical ageism.
  9. Health costs of ageism calculated at $63 billion annually, study finds
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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