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All Boards >> Irritable Bowel Syndrome Research Library


Reged: 12/09/02
Posts: 7677
Loc: Seattle, WA
Biases Affect Treatment of IBS
      06/04/04 06:45 PM

Reported June 1, 2004

Biases Affect Treatment

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Doctors’ stereotypes about certain diseases may keep patients from receiving effective treatment, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers in London gathered 46 general practitioners to discuss treating chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. The study’s authors say they chose these conditions because both have complex, poorly understood causes and these patients often have symptoms that are difficult to characterize.

The doctors admit they tend to view patients with CFS as having undesirable traits, such as a weaker work ethic or a refusal to play the “sick role,” meaning they are seen as not making every effort to get better as quickly as possible. On the other hand, doctors view patients with IBS in a more positive light, giving them credit for “battling through it” or rarely missing work because of the condition.

The researchers say many of the doctors were frustrated by a clear treatment option for chronic fatigue syndrome. One doctor went so far as to say, “I would rather treat a whole surgery full of people with irritable bowel syndrome than people with chronic fatigue.”

Previous research has indicated that mental health interventions may be effective for patients with both chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome who do not respond to symptom management by their primary care doctor. The authors of this study conclude many physicians say they do not consider a referral to a mental health provider because they are unfamiliar with these interventions or they think they’re either unnecessary or unavailable.

The researchers suggest these set of beliefs are keeping patients from receiving effective treatment. They write, “To overcome these barriers, doctors must recognize their deeply held beliefs that mediate their understanding of complex disease mechanisms.” Such a change in perception, they say, must be supplemented by the establishment of locally available effective interventions.

This article was reported by, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to:

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, doi:10.1136/bmj.38078.503819.EE, published online May 29, 2004

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