Medical Symptoms That Medicine Can’t Hear


From Pacific Standard: Women’s medical problems have long been dismissed as psychological by our healthcare system. In her new book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick, Maya Dusenbery explores the history of sexism in medicine.

“From stories of chronic illness and pain to emergency room visits for heart attacks, Dusenbery illustrates the hurdles through which women must jump if they want to receive medical diagnoses based on actual symptoms, rather than on stereotypes. Women have instead been subjected to years of mistreatment and costly (both financial and medical) mistakes, as doctors continue to attribute symptoms to psychological causes and to an ‘over-dramatization’ of symptoms among women.

Much of the discrepancy in treatment stems from the ‘knowledge gap,’ which Dusenbery writes about in depth. A lag in research hinders doctors from understanding medical differences between genders. She outlines the history (still ongoing) of the lack of inclusion of women in clinical trials, and the ‘urge’ but not the mandate for researchers to include more women in their clinical studies. Researchers have paid minimal attention to conditions ‘unique to or more prevalent or serious in women,’ and have also managed to exclude women from the vast majority of clinical studies (for example, a 1980s study looking at the effect of obesity on breast and uterine cancer failed to enroll any women in the study).”

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