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3 reasons doctors make more diagnostic mistakes that affect women

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Proper diagnosis is crucial for adequate medical support. People can barely manage their symptoms without a diagnosis, let alone resolve the underlying cause of their medical symptoms. Whether someone has an appointment with their primary care physician or requires an evaluation at an urgent care facility, they rely on a doctor to analyze their symptoms and determine what may have caused them. Millions of patients every year have poor medical outcomes in part because a doctor failed to properly diagnose them.

Female patients seeking care are substantially more likely than male patients to have a doctor fail to diagnose them or misdiagnose them with the wrong condition. What factors contribute to the diagnostic failures of physicians treating female patients?

Different symptoms

Medical challenges may produce different symptoms in different people. For example, strokes and cardiac events can be vastly different for female patients as opposed to male patients. Particularly at urgent care facilities and emergency rooms, a lack of knowledge about how different conditions present differently in men and women could potentially lead to major but preventable diagnostic failures.

Personal bias

Physicians are supposed to treat everyone the same, but they inevitably let their personal beliefs and biases affect the care that they provide. Women complaining of pain symptoms may not receive the attention that a man with the same symptoms might benefit from in a medical environment. Misogynistic beliefs held by doctors might include the idea that women have a lower pain tolerance or are more likely to exaggerate their symptoms seeking attention when the reality is often the opposite of that assumption.

Female socialization

Another common reason that doctors make diagnostic mistakes with female patients is that they don’t give women adequate time to talk. The average doctor interrupts patients relatively quickly in a conversation, and women may be less likely than men to reassert themselves. Female socialization can diminish how assertive women are when interacting with authority figures, including physicians. They may be unlikely to repeat themselves and may even downplay their symptoms because they feel a sense of guilt about inconveniencing others with their complaints.

Physicians should account for personal bias, female socialization and unique symptom presentation when attempting to diagnose a female patient. The failure to do so could be an egregious form of medical malpractice that one physician repeats over and over throughout their career. When negligent diagnostic failures occur, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit could help improve the standard of medicine at a facility or with a particular physician. A successful lawsuit could also compensate a female patient for the negative impact that a negligence-based diagnostic consequence may have caused.