Tag Archives: bias in health care

Healthcare gender bias

I’ve written about this subject before but it still floors me when I read about the experience of women within the health-care system and the readiness of Consultants to attribute women’s symptoms to emotional or psychological factors.  I know some men, particularly those with M.E., who have had their symptoms put down to mental health issues but on the whole they are ten times more likely to be given a biological diagnosis and I haven’t heard of a man yet whose physical ill-health has been put down to hysteria or issues with their penis (I have heard, however, of women who have been told their womb is to blame!).

A friend posted a link to an excellent article on the CNN website about POTS which states that 80% of sufferers are women, a statistic which is largely mirrored in co-morbid conditions like hEDS, M.E., MCAS and auto-immune disorders such as Lupus.  The largest survey on POTS to date found that 75% of female patients were initially told their symptoms were psychological and a quarter of those were treated for mental health conditions they didn’t have.

What shocked me to the core in the article, however, was the testimony of female sufferers.  One was told by her Cardiologist “it’s a women’s thing” and her symptoms were all in her head (what fucking century are we living in?).  Another that “you’re just doing this because you’re 31 and don’t have babies yet”.  Would a man ever be told he was fainting every time he stood up because he was 31 and not yet a Dad?  Hell no!

Like many of us, the answer to their perplexing symptoms was found by the patients themselves who turned to Doctor Google.  If we non-medics can find the answer online just by typing our symptoms into a search box why can’t trained medical professionals?  It’s because, on the whole, they’re not looking for physical reasons.  We’re women, nothing is showing up on standard blood tests, therefore we’re making it up to gain attention because we’re lonely and hysterical.  It makes me LIVID.

I was talking to my best mate the other week and she was saying that she takes her partner in to medical appointments with her because she is taken more seriously if accompanied by a man.  She just has to grit her teeth when the Doctor speaks to him and not to her as the 42 year old degree educated fully qualified Civil Engineer patient.

Where has this bias come from?  I’m sure if I researched it there would be all sorts of conclusions drawn by people much cleverer than me, but I believe it’s simply that men and women are different and, because men have ruled the world since time immemorial they think that everyone should be like them, and if you’re not like them you’re somehow wrong, inferior or bonkers.  I’ll never forget watching a documentary about a trans-gender man who transitioned into a woman.  He naturally had to take female hormones and spent 3 months crying at the drop of a hat.  He said he had no idea that women go around feeling this emotionally raw every day of their lives and he hadn’t even experienced periods, the menopause or pregnancy!

Women’s hormones, on the whole, make us more emotional than men – it’s just a fact of life.  We are not mental or hysterical, we’re just more emotionally expressive than the other sex.  It’s normal, men need to fucking get over it and women need to stop apologising for it.  Do you hear that ladies?  We need to STOP apologising for it!

Britain had a famous female Prime Minister who only rose to the stop of the political ladder by acting more like a man than any of the men and this seems to be the case for many successful females.  But we’re not men!  We’re women and we should be allowed to act like women, hormones, emotions and all.  And if we are more prone to certain diseases because of our gender then that needs to be researched.  FFS we make up more than half the world’s population yet diseases which predominantly affect us are almost totally ignored.

Women’s issues across the board are ignored.  When I first started peri-menopause 6 years ago I went to see my female GP who told me it would all be over with in 2 years because that’s what she’d been taught in medical school by, I assume, male professors.  You only have to spend 3 seconds on Google to know this is bullshit and not born out by the experience of most women, yet the myth is still being perpetuated in medical school because researchers can’t be bothered to look at the reality.  Periods, pregnancy and menopause are natural after all and we women need to stop whining about it.  How I’d love a man to pass a bowling ball through his arse and then tell me it’s natural and he needs to stop whining, even though his backside has been torn to bits to the point where sitting down is torture and he poos every time he sneezes for the rest of his life.

As you can probably tell, the appalling way women’s health is often viewed within the medical profession makes my blood boil yet my whole life I have not challenged it.  I’ve come out of medical appointments and cried at the way I’ve been treated yet I have said nothing and done nothing.  This has to stop.  We need to speak up.  We need to complain about our treatment.  We need to confront sexism.  But more importantly we need to stop apologising for being female and having different experiences to men.