Discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual family physicians by patients

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Abstract

Background

Discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) patients by physicians is well known. Discrimination against GLB physicians by their colleagues and superiors is also well known and includes harassment, denial of positions and refusal to refer patients to them. The purpose of this study was to identify and quantify the attitudes of patients toward GLB physicians.

Methods

Telephone interviews were conducted with 500 randomly selected people living in a large urban Canadian city. Subjects were asked if they would refuse to see a GLB family physician and, if so, to describe the reason why. They were then given a choice of 6 reasons obtained from consultation with 10 GLB people and 10 heterosexual people.

Results

Of the 500 subjects 346 (69.2%) were reached and agreed to participate. Of the 346 respondents 41 (11.8%) stated that they would refuse to see a GLB family physician. The 2 most common reasons for the discrimination (prevalence rate more than 50%) were that GLB physicians would be incompetent and the respondent would feel "uncomfortable" having a GLB physician. Although more male than female respondents discriminated against GLB physicians, the difference was not statistically significant. The proportion of male and female respondents who discriminated increased with age (p < 0.01).

Conclusions

The observed prevalence of patient discrimination against GLB family physicians is significant. The results suggest that the discrimination is based on emotional reasons and is not related to such factors as misinformation about STDs and fear of being thought of sexually. Therefore, educational efforts should be directed against general perceptions of homosexuality rather than targeting specific medical concerns.

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