04 February 2009

Gender disparity in healthcare

First there was this story about older women getting fewer kidney transplants than men: http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-1/Older-Women-Get--Fewer-Kidney-Transplants-Than-Men-34248-1/

They found that women 45 and younger were as likely as men to be placed on a transplant waiting list. But as women aged, their chances of getting on the list dropped, getting worse with each decade, said the lead author, Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

Further, "Dr. Segev suggested that caregivers, family members and maybe the patients perceived older women to be more frail than they really are. “A lot of older women die without having an opportunity to get on the transplant list"

I think it was this paragraph that pissed me off the very most. Not only do women get the shaft with regard to getting on the transplant list, he blames it on their families and even the women themselves. Puhleeze. It is generally the doctor who decides if you're going on the list. If they think you can survive it, they badger you into it. If they don't, they discourage you and will even outright refuse to put you on the list. You know the old joke. Q: What's the difference between God and doctors? A: God doesn't think he's a doctor. I admit it, I have *very* little respect for doctors. I walk in expecting them to be incompetent assholes, and am rarely pleasantly surprised. My Mom is currently dealing with kidney failure, chronic hypertension, congestive heart failure and a miserable thing called cryoglobulinemia. She suffered for years, with her doctor constantly trying to give her anti-depressants, and saying stupid things to her like, "Are you sure you're taking your meds?" and "You aren't just looking for attention are you?" Honestly, there's no way he'd have treated a man like this. And I know it. Because he didn't treat my Dad that way when he had heart trouble. It is absolutely appalling how women are treated in medicine.

Then there was this, regarding the wait time for an emergency cardiac treatment - women wait longer than men: http://www.innovations-report.de/html/berichte/medizin_gesundheit/bericht-35959.html

And then this, which is similar, difference being the time it takes to get women having heart attacks to hospitals: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27disp.html?_r=2

It's not that people say, "Oh, it's just a woman, who cares?" It's that in medicine, men's bodies are considered normal. Women's are "othered". Take a look at the way the Mayo Clinic describes symptoms of heart attacks. First, they have a list of "typical heart attack symptoms", and then they have a list of "Common heart attack symptoms in women" that starts out "Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms." It's clear, women are not considered typical.

Again, appalling. When is the world of medicine going to wise up and start realizing that women are 50% of the population? We're not just "the weird cases".

h/t: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/02/02/female-heart-patients-experience-more-emergency-room-delays/#comments