katherineguest

Women: Often “Miss Treated” By Doctors- Guest Post



Today I’m featuring guest post by Katherine Ernst the founder of Miss Treated, a site devoted to exposing misogyny in the medical profession. 

All chronic illness sufferers, whether male or female,
experience frustration when dealing with the medical system. But if you’re a
woman, whether you realize it or not, your struggle is going to be much much
harder.
First of all, women are disproportionately affected by
chronic diseases that are life-long and that greatly affect one’s quality of
life such as autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgiachronic fatigue syndrome, and most chronic pain conditions. Considering women’s predisposition to these disorders,
you’d think doctors would be quicker to spot them when a woman comes into their
office, but it’s actually quite the opposite.
For instance, even though women are more likely to suffer
from chronic pain disorders, women are less
likely to be prescribed pain medication for their ailments. In fact, studies
have found that doctors in a pain clinic were more inclined to prescribe men opioid
pain medications while giving women tranquilizers. That is, doctors give men
medication to relieve their pain whereas they give women medication to shut
them up. Even when an organic cause for a woman’s pain has been identified, doctors
are still apt
to attribute women’s pain to psychological problems and
prescribe her antidepressants instead of pain relievers. Even in children
who’ve had surgery, doctors will give boys strong pain relief while giving girls Tylenol.
Medical sexism extends to essentially every area of medical
practice. Women are less likely to be diagnosed as having a heart attack, even
when presenting with identical symptoms as men. Doctors are twice
as likely
to attribute a woman’s even “textbook” symptoms of heart attack
to anxiety and are seven
times more likely
to send a woman home from the ER during a cardiac event.
Women are 22
times less likely
to be referred for a knee replacement, with identical
moderate symptoms. Women are less likely to be put on a kidney transplant list. Even
young girls
are less likely to be put on transplant lists, so the disparate treatment
starts essentially at birth.
What does this tell us? The first obvious point is that
thousands of women are dying every year because of subpar medical treatment. But
even when women don’t die, they are often left living in pain or with other
chronic conditions that have not been adequately managed because doctors are
too quick to think of a woman’s illness as “all in her head.” As one
doctor put it
to ABC Los Angeles, “In training, we were taught to be on the
lookout for hysterical females who come to the emergency room.”
Knowing all of this, what can we as patients do to advocate
for ourselves? First of all, if your doctor isn’t taking you seriously, find a
new one. If the next one doesn’t take you seriously, find a third, and so on.
It is not uncommon for women to have to go to half a dozen doctors before she
finds one that will give her appropriate care. In autoimmune disorders, for
instance, it takes on average five
years and five doctors
before a woman is diagnosed.
Secondly, and I hate suggesting this because this should not
have to be the case, but when you go to the doctor, especially a new one, bring
a man with you. Doctors
will admit
that they take women more seriously if her husband or father is
there to validate that her symptoms are real and that she’s not crazy. It’s
terrible that a woman needs a man behind her agreeing that she really is sick
before a doctor will do a full workup, but it’s a fact.
Some women, and even some doctors,
advocate for women to see women doctors. However, the data about whether female
doctors discriminate against women less is not entirely clear. There are some studies that show that women
doctors are just as discriminatory as male doctors. However, there are other
studies that show that female doctors are better
listeners
and therefore more likely to make a proper diagnosis. So, it may
be a good idea to seek out a female doctor. From the many women I’ve spoken to
anecdotally, I’d say you’re better off with a highly competent doctor than one
of a particular gender. Talk to your friends and try to get a good
recommendation.
Finally, there needs to be a sea change in the medical
community. Doctors need to stop assuming women are hysterical and that their
symptoms are all in their heads. To that end, I’ve started the blog Miss•Treated. It’s a place for women to
share their stories of being dismissed by doctors so that we can expose the
medical sexism that is usually hidden behind the doctor’s office door. When
women share their stories, they begin to take their power back. And more
importantly, once I’ve collected hundreds of these stories, no one will be able
to argue that this isn’t a serious problem. So please, if you relate to what I’ve
written here; if it’s been a long road to diagnosis; if you’ve been told by a doctor
your symptoms are all in your head: Submit
Your Story
. Because women shouldn’t need to see five doctors or bring a man
along with them before they get competent medical care.

 

 
Miss•Treated is the brainchild of Katherine Ernst. Katherine graduated with honors from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor from Loyola University, New Orleans, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2007. After giving up full-time legal practice because of medical issues, Katherine turned her attention to writing. She’s written novels for children and young adults, and has also written freelance articles for publications such as feministing.com, CBS Philly, and numerous other blogs and websites.
Facebook Comments

4 thoughts on “Women: Often “Miss Treated” By Doctors- Guest Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *