Medicine is supposed to be a field of work for compassionate people. The idea behind medical care is that doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can come to understand the nature of a malady a patient reports and help them address it. Unfortunately, the success of medical treatment is often directly tied to both the competency and biases of the doctor providing care.
Many unacknowledged internal issues, including a bias against obese adults or women, can impact the kind of care that a patient receives. When a doctor’s biases impact patient care, the end result can be unnecessary suffering or a failure to diagnose a condition in a timely manner. Women are at increased risk of having a doctor ignore symptoms, especially pain.
Believe it or not, women are actually much less likely than men to receive adequate care for chronic pain conditions. Doctors often do not take self-reported symptoms from women seriously, leaving them at risk for worsening conditions. For some issues, like certain cancers, pain may be the only warning sign. When doctors choose to ignore that pain, the patient can end up with a worse prognosis as a result.
Even when the source of the pain is well-known, such as coronary bypass surgery, doctors are half as likely to prescribe painkillers to women patients when compared with men who have undergone the same procedure. Women are not only less likely to receive pain relief, they have to wait longer for it.
Women with acute abdominal pain, a potentially deadly symptom, wait 65 minutes for pain relief, while men reporting the same symptoms only wait 49 minutes. In the case of heart attacks, a 2000 study found that women are seven times less likely to receive an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment during a heart attack. Doctors don’t take the pain or symptoms reported by women to heart, which can negatively impact the health care they receive.
Having a doctor fail to address reported symptoms is a serious concern, especially in the case of extreme and life-threatening medical events, like heart attacks. Any patient who believes that their delay in diagnosis was a result of a doctor’s bias may have grounds for seeking compensation for their misdiagnosis under medical malpractice laws.
Until more medical professionals end up dealing with serious consequences for their biases and prejudices, they will continue to allow their inaccurate view of other humans impact how they practice medicine. Creating real, financial consequences for discrimination in the medical field is one of the best possible deterrents. If you believe that gender bias played a role in a potential medical malpractice case, you need to take steps to stand up for yourself.