By Debra P. Klauber and Trisha Widowfield.
Perhaps the question is rhetorical, but “are men and women treated the same in medical research, diagnosis and treatment?”* In our view, the answer is a resounding “no” and some of the statistics are shocking.
- Women are not offered the same treatment as men in many common conditions such as coronary artery disease, Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, neck pain, and arthritis.
- Most adverse events related to prescription medications occur in women.
- Women are less likely than men to receive more advanced diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
- Older women (50+) are less likely than men to be admitted to an intensive care unit when additional monitoring is necessary.
- Men are more likely to have their symptoms interpreted as physical problems while women complaining of the same symptoms are often diagnosed with psycho-social disorders.
- When doctors are going through medical training, an “average patient” is based on a white man who weighs approximately 165 pounds.
The History of Women’s Health Education
In 1977, the FDA recommended that women of childbearing age be excluded from clinical research studies. The goal was an admirable one – to protect unborn children. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences continued for decades and continue to impact healthcare today, when providers still use data from studies performed on men to treat women. In 1993, Congress rescinded the 1977 policy and passed the National Institute of Health Revitalization Act, encouraging researchers to include more women and minorities in clinical trials. More recent data suggests that women account for almost half of the participants in clinical trials funded by the NIH. However, a great deal of research on diseases and risk factors continues to be conducted without considering the relevance of sex, gender, race or ethnicity.
Dangerous Consequences for Women
Because we know less about women’s health, in general, women remain at a higher risk for falling victim to medical negligence. Women often have to wait much longer than men in order to obtain a proper diagnosis, and then have an even greater chance of being misdiagnosed. Because accurate women’s representation in clinical research is incomplete, generating treatment regimens from studies conducted largely or exclusively in men can have dangerous unknown results (for example, biological differences between men and women lead to differences in how certain drugs are metabolized). When “common” symptoms of a disease or medical condition are based on the symptoms suffered by men, women who suffer from different symptoms end up with delayed diagnoses, which can be fatal.
If less is known about women’s health issues due to the disparity in how women are treated by health care providers and medical institutions, then women are more vulnerable to medical mistakes, in our view. Consulting with an attorney who has knowledge of these types of medical errors and access to a wide variety of experts can assist in determining whether malpractice has occurred. If you are dealing with a medical malpractice case, gender-specific or otherwise, and would like to discuss your options, please contact Debbie Klauber, Trish Widowfield, or any other member of our Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm legal team.
*It is important to note that healthcare disparities also result from factors other than sex or gender, such as race, socioeconomic status, disability, age and weight, among others.