Historically, there has existed a trend of doctors not taking women’s medical concerns as seriously as men’s. This is an issue that persists today, with many women experiencing gender bias in hospitals and waiting rooms as a result.
The difference in medical treatment can result in misdiagnoses and serious, long-lasting health consequences. This is the case with heart attacks; women have a 50% higher likelihood of receiving a misdiagnosis when experiencing them, according to a University of Leeds study.
The “hysteria” myth and ongoing stereotype
A large portion of the blame for these heart attack misdiagnoses (and the overall greater challenge women face in getting taken seriously by healthcare professionals) belongs to the idea that women are hysterical. This has a historical basis in an old myth that men used to believe that women’s wandering uteruses caused symptoms throughout their bodies. Though society debunked and no longer believes this, many still adhere to the belief that women are prone to hysteria. As a result, doctors may believe women are exaggerating their symptoms, being overly emotional or panicking, which leads to them taking them less seriously.
The differing symptoms
Not all of the faults go to stereotyping. Doctors receive training to recognize certain heart attack symptoms. However, these are more prevalent in men. Women often present very differently when they experience heart attacks, and medical personnel who are not aware of this may fail to recognize the symptoms.
A misdiagnosed heart attack can lead to a woman never receiving proper care. This can cause serious problems, including permanent brain or heart damage and muscle death. It can even lead to death in the most serious cases.
Women may not receive the diagnoses and treatment they need because of gender bias. Those who must bear long-term issues in the aftermath have the right to seek compensation for their pain.