Are Women More Likely to be Misdiagnosed?

The misdiagnosis of a disease or illness can have tragic consequences for a patient. When a doctor’s error leads to no treatment, or delayed treatment, for a misdiagnosed condition, a patient can be seriously injured or die from the mistake. Misdiagnosis can happen to anyone, but in recent years it appears that the gender of a patient may have an impact on whether the patient is diagnosed correctly. Are women more likely to be misdiagnosed than men?

In a 2016 study by the British Heart Foundation, it was discovered that women are 50 % more likely than men to be misdiagnosed when they are having a heart attack. Another study found that women were 33% more likely to be misdiagnosed after having a stroke. Women under 55 are seven times more likely to be sent home from the hospital in the middle of a heart attack. Autoimmune disease, which disproportionately affects women, can take years to diagnose properly. Studies show that women are more likely to have the cause of their pain be misdiagnosed as a mental health issue. The facts are clear. Women are more often misdiagnosed than men. But why?

Systemic Bias in the Healthcare System

Medical education and research have been historically male-focused. There has been a legacy of years of research conducted on men with the assumption that the data could be extrapolated to women. But a study found significant gender differences in various bodily functions including the liver, the kidneys, and the digestive system. This means that women respond to disease differently than men and that the female body may react differently to treatment. For example, in a scientific statement issued in 2016, the American Heart Association noted that women have different causes and symptoms of heart attacks. Heart attack symptoms in women are more likely to include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and back pain. But doctors have been trained to look for the signs more common in male heart attack victims and might not necessarily recognize these serious symptoms in a woman.

Women Viewed Differently by Their Doctors

We live in a culture that has unfairly stereotyped women as being overly emotional and anxious. Doctors, sometimes unconsciously, carry this bias into their offices. Often women’s symptoms are brushed off as being caused by depression, anxiety, or stress. There is a sense that women are not accurate judges of whether something is wrong with their bodies. Once a woman has an anxiety diagnosis in her chart, a doctor may be tempted to use it as an explanation for other symptoms.

If you or a loved one have been harmed by a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a disease or illness, you need an experienced attorney to look at your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience representing people who have been injured due to a medical misdiagnosis. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MED-LAW1 to schedule a free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.

2018-05-07T19:34:05+00:00

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