Being a woman isn’t easy. It comes with major social expectations about appearance and behavior, biological difficulties including menstruation and childbirth, and often an uphill battle if you want to pursue a career. As if all of that weren’t bad enough, women also often receive less accurate medical care from physicians.
Doctors are more likely to discount or ignore symptoms, especially pain, presented by female patients. If you experience a life-threatening medical event, such as a heart attack, your doctor’s gender bias could actually impact your prognosis and likelihood of survival.
Many physicians don’t readily recognize the slightly different symptoms of heart attack or cardiac arrest in female patients and as such, make diagnosis mistakes or fail to diagnose the patient altogether.
There’s no excuse for ignoring known and obvious symptoms
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among women and is responsible for 1 in 4 women’s deaths. Despite knowing how serious cardiac issues can be for women, doctors still overlook their symptoms, possibly because they are sometimes different from the symptoms men present.
Women are more likely than men to have pain in parts of the body other than the chest, including their jaws and backs. They may experience a cold sweat, shortness of breath or a sensation of pressure in the chest. Physicians who aren’t familiar with the gender differences for cardiac issues may make a mistake and send a patient home without a proper diagnosis or not diagnose them at all when they are actually in immediate need of intense cardiac care.
Doctors have an obligation to understand the needs of all sexes
While it is true that many medical studies focus more on the needs and physiology of men than of women, physicians treat both genders and therefore have an obligation to educate themselves about the difference in responses and symptoms for women and men undergoing potentially life-threatening medical events such as a heart attack. The information is readily available for doctors who want to improve the care they provide.
Anyone whose doctor failed to diagnose them, especially if ignorance or gender bias played a role, may have grounds for legal action or financial claims against the physician involved.