Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients fear being open about their identities, not receiving equal or safe treatment, and having their family and surrogates disrespected or ignored by providers.
Objective: To examine inadequate, disrespectful, and abusive care to patients and family due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Design: A cross-sectional study using an online survey.
Setting/Subjects: Home and residential hospice, inpatient palliative care service, and other inpatient and outpatient settings. Subjects were 865 hospice and palliative care providers, including physicians, social workers, nurses, and chaplains.
Measurements: Inadequate, disrespectful, or abusive care to LGBT patients and discriminatory treatment of family and surrogates were measured.
Results: Among respondents, 53.6% thought that lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) patients were more likely than non-LGB patients to experience discrimination at their institution; 23.7% observed discriminatory care; 64.3% reported that transgender patients were more likely than nontransgender patients to experience discrimination; 21.3% observed discrimination to transgender patients; 15% observed the spouse/partner of LGBT patients having their treatment decisions disregarded or minimized; and 14.3% observed the spouse/partner or surrogate being treated disrespectfully.
Conclusions: These findings provide strong evidence that LGBT patients and their families are more likely to receive discriminatory care as compared with those who are not LGBT. Disrespectful care can negatively impact the trust patients have in providers and institutions, and lead to delaying or avoiding care, or not disclosing relevant information. Partners/spouses and surrogates may be treated disrespectfully, have their treatment decisions ignored or minimized, be denied or have limited access to the patient, and be denied private time. Advocacy and staff training should address barriers to delivering respectful and nondiscriminatory care.