Response thread on the topic of doctors treating female patients possibly differently than male ones + my biased thinking based on anecdotes rather than studies

Continuing the discussion from Elliot Shares Links (2021):


You should look up data from studies instead of finding anecdotes that confirm your existing opinions. This is a typical display of biased thinking.

You’re right. When you posted that response I did look up whether some studies of this sort existed and read through them shortly. I planned on writing a summary of one of the studies but I got busy and never did it. I realized I should write a short response at least to say that I appreciated your comment and it made sense to me. I wanted to clarify that I didn’t ignore your comment and drop the subject. I looked into it and agree with you that it’s a typical display of biased thinking.

There were some links to studies in this post: Women and pain: Disparities in experience and treatment - Harvard Health

Although I have not checked out all the links, I read through a few of them. I’m less confident in my assertion now and glad you responded the way you did.

In the future, I’ll look to studies first rather than anecdotes.

P.S. I did not realize that Justin’s initial post (Woman Puts Off Going To Doctor Until Disease Bad Enough For Him To Believe Her) was by The Onion. That’s kinda funny since I read the embed and took it seriously, not realizing it was satire. Also shows that I’m not taking enough care to read and understand a source before responding, which is a pattern of error on my part.

There are studies that find differences between how men and women are treated, regardless of the gender of the health care provider.

For example, a 2007 study found that men were more likely than women to receive opioid painkillers when they went to the emergency department for acute abdominal pain. This happened whether they were treated by a male or female physician.

I haven’t gone through the study thoroughly, so I don’t mean to recommend it as particularly good - just wanted to show that there is stuff out there that does not support the idea that females would be better off with female physicians.

Also, so far as anecdotal evidence goes, I have seen a lot of stories about people who felt they were medically gaslit or mistreated by both female and male medical professionals. Some of them still haven’t found any doctor - of either gender - that took them seriously. Some of them finally found a doctor that did, but in the stories I have heard it was not consistently always a female doctor. (These are both stories of real life friends & acquaintances, and stuff I’ve seen on social media.)

Good point. Maybe it’s an issue that every doctor faces and is more of a general/medical profession bias than a bias limited to primarily male doctors. Thanks for sharing this idea and the study. Kind of unfortunate because then it’s like: If you’re an individual patient facing this kind of issue, what can you do? Initially I thought seeking out a female doctor might help sort out the problem faster but now I doubt that. Maybe it just means seek out more doctors and be quick to insist on second/third/fourth opinions rather than take the doctor’s word for it if you don’t think they’re taking your issue seriously or they are being dismissive.

Makes me also realize that maybe there’s a lot of value in finding a doctor you trust who takes you seriously and building that kind of long term relationship with them.

Edit: Interesting point from the study:

A final contributing factor may be ED crowding. During busy periods, patients, particularly those with lower acuity, are often evaluated in hallway stretchers. If women with acute abdominal pain are brought back into an ED hallway to be evaluated, their pelvic and abdominal exams are usually deferred until room placement occurs. This may further exacerbate delays in the administration of analgesia due to previously noted concerns about clouding the clinical exam. A small study of acute abdominal pain in the ED showed that patients received analgesia more quickly during times of less crowding.

So maybe because the policy is to delay female patients’ pelvic exams whereas male patients can get their pevlic exams publicly when ERs are overcrowded played some role in men getting painkillers and women not getting painkillers. Doesn’t seem like this factor alone can explain everything but I think it’s cool that the authors of the study pointed it out and even referenced another study that accounted for the over crowding and showed how all patients received painkillers more quickly when there was less crowding.

On average, it’s best to do that with a male doctor. They quit or go on leave less.