Medical Sexism: The Sociopathic Business Model™
August 1, 2014
Have you ever visited a doctor and felt like they weren’t listening to you, or dismissed your concerns? You’re not alone and if you’re a woman, it’s much more common. This as medical sexism. I was almost a victim of medical sexism 24 years ago even before I knew it existed or had a name.
May 1, 1990, I had open heart surgery for an atrial myxoma (tumor on the heart). That’s the good part, the not so good part was the hoops I had to jump through to get my male doctors to pay attention and treat the symptoms regardless of age or sex. As with any profession there are good and those that feel burdened by their jobs. While I recognize my case was extremely unique and a tumor on the heart wasn’t the first thing to cross physician’s minds in a healthy, active 18-year-old girl; but, it didn’t give them the right to dismiss my symptoms or demean and insult me in the process.
My original doctors (specialists) did not recognize my rights as a patient and had no interest in solving my medical problem but rather wanted to mask it (with a lifetime of drugs and side effects) and send me on my way. Things like: “She’s a hypochondriac and nervous about starting college in the fall,” were in my charts.
I danced, played tennis (more like attempted to play), and was getting crushing chest pains that would cause me to stop what I was doing, double over and try to regain breathe. That was not normal any more than it was imaged. After months of testing, being made to feel like I was a problem (from specialists) the tumor was finally located; and, I was told to still expect the crushing pains as the tumor wasn’t causing those. (Yep these guys were little rays of sunshine).
I am happy to report that I’ve maybe had two of those chest pains in the last 24 years since the tumor was removed. When experiencing sexism at work, there are steps to follow with HR to try and rectify the unethical or illegal actions of another; however, what do you do when it’s happening at your doctor’s office?
First*, (if you’re relatively healthy) ask yourself if you visit the Family doctor about multiple problems more than six times a year or if you visit the doctor six times a year for the same problem. If you have multiple problems more than six times a year, it’s not a bad idea to possibly see a therapist. This might seem harsh, it’s not, sometimes it takes someone looking at our problems from the outside in to help. That’s not to say symptoms can’t manifest but you might be surprised at how many symptoms resolve by talking to a professional. If you are experiencing the same problem more than six times a year the information below if for you. Women who have thyroid problems, heart problems, fibromyalgia, and postpartum depression are often dismissed as just being “tired moms.” Find me a mom that isn’t tired! Providers need to listen to women more and in the case of MESH, it’s not until the surgeons implanting the mesh are held accountable will the industry change. Once doctors begin to get sued by their patients they’ll finally turn on the makers of mesh.
Take control of the healthcare. Start by gathering as much information about yourself from your providers as possible. Ask for a copy of your chart after each visit and keep this information in a secure cloud or jump drive (USB) that only you and your ICE (in case of emergency) contact has access to. Write down all your medications (include dosing/ strength), a list of all previous surgeries with dates, broken bones, etc. And keep going (even if that includes finding a different doctor) until you find an answer not a mask to your symptoms but a real answer. You know your body better than anyone.
In the event, you have to have surgery with an implant (mesh, sinus, breast, etc.) you may want to read this checklist prior.
*I am not a medical provider and the information here is not meant as legal or medical advice but as a guide to help interested individuals achieve personal healthcare accountability.
If you’re interesting in reading my personal story: