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Do Women Suffer Disadvantages When Seeking Medical Help Compared to Men?

January 15, 2021

It’s no secret that when compared to men, women do suffer disadvantages when seeking medical treatment. Research proves this point, a fact that may cause serious injury and death.

Laura Huang, PhD, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies organizational behavior, conducted a study in 2018 that tracked nearly 582,000 heart attack cases treated in emergency rooms from 1991 to 2010. Her research found that 13.3% of women, and 12.6% of men, treated by male doctors died from their heart attacks. While the overall survival rates improved when a female doctors provided treatment, there still was a gap: 12% of the women died, and 11.8% of the men died.

“We’re seeing gender disparities even in a context when those disparities should not exist,” Huang said in an interview.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a cardiac arrest. Other studies have found that women in pain are much more likely than men to receive prescriptions for sedatives, instead of pain medication, for their medical problems. In fact, a study showed women who received coronary bypass surgery were only half as likely to be prescribed painkillers as men who’d had the same operation!

Finally, research found that women wait an average of 65 minutes before getting an analgesic for acute abdominal pain in U.S. emergency rooms. Men, on the other hand, wait only 49 minutes. Those 16 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

These dramatic gender biases in our healthcare system can and have had serious and sometimes fatal consequences.

The “Female” Tax

That’s what some call the disparate healthcare treatment women receive when compared to men. It’s similar to the “pink” tax, which is the extra amount that women pay for everyday products like razors, shampoo, haircuts, clothes, and dry cleaning. Many women receive lower-quality care but ultimately pay more for their care… and in many cases with worse outcomes. While research shows this to be true of all women, those who are poor and women of color have dramatically worse experiences with the healthcare system, including higher death rates.

Despite these statistics, women’s healthcare has become more of a profit center rather than a real source of help for women with medical issues. Doctors and nurses may not provide the proper care for women, especially given some of the studies that show there is a biological basis for gender differences in a number of common conditions, such as colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, dementia, and depression. For example, research by Wake Forest Baptist Health shows the following:

  • High blood pressure is potentially more dangerous for women than men;
  • Calcium supplements prescribed regularly to prevent osteoporosis in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer may not be effective, and may even cause harm;
  • Therapies that decrease hot flashes in women are ineffective in men who have hot flashes as a side effect of hormone therapy for prostate cancer; and
  • Women and African-Americans are at higher risk of heart attack from atrial fibrillation than men and Caucasians.

Emergency rooms, clinics, and hospital staffs may fail to recognize a serious medical condition and may not provide the proper care for women if they think that the symptoms are the same as those of men—when, in fact, they can be different. These assumptions can cause serious injury and death.

What If a Woman in Your Family or a Loved One is Harmed by Gender Bias When Seeking Medical Help?

You should speak to an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm to discuss whether you have a claim.

To recover on a claim of medical malpractice, an injured patient must show that the physician, nurse, or hospital acted negligently in providing care, and that this negligence caused his or her injury. These three legal elements must be proven:

  • a breach of that duty (failing to respond or delaying response to the patient’s alarm);
  • the breach caused an injury (cardiac arrest, coma, developing other illness, etc.); and
  • resulting damages (the cost of additional care, extended hospitalization, lost wages, etc.).


If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to gender bias that resulted in medical malpractice, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm.

For a free consultation with an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been serious injured at the hands of a hospital or healthcare professional.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home, or in the hospital to accommodate you.