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Ageism is rampant in medicine

Full disclosure: I’m totally biased – I’m old and every old person is biased because, well, we’ve learned, haven’t we?

But you know what?

That is also true for every young person and every not-young-anymore-but-not-yet-old-either person, too.

Anyway, the reason there is so much age discrimination in medicine – much more than for any other demographic sub-group, I’d suggest – is simply that medicine – and especially hospital-based medicine – is to a very great extent run by young docs, many of whom (probably most, I’d say) have absolutely no idea about the worth of an aging person’s life, and who tend to believe, in large part because they are surrounded by examples in the hospital which, after all, is a facility only for the very sick, that every old person is merely a dead person-in-waiting.

So I was not surprised in the least by a study from a group of researchers at Yale which has just been published in the PLOS ONE journal that agesim is rampant in medical systems around the world.

According to this analysis, “ageism adversely affected whether or not older patients received medical treatment and, if they received the treatment, the duration, frequency, and appropriateness of the treatment provided”.

In other words, old people get significantly less care just because they are old, a trend that these researchers say is getting worse rather than better.

The depressing thing if you’re old – or even if you plan on getting older – is that this is very unlikely to ever change so long as young people are in the position of making important health decisions over the status of sick, old people.

My strong caution: If you’re old and sick, try to get a younger person to help represent you when you need to be in hospital.