Women’s Experiences of Medical Miss-Diagnosis: How does gender matter in healthcare settings?
journal contributionposted on 11.03.2021, 09:15 by Jessica Thompson, Denise Blake
Medical misdiagnosis for women continues to be a significant problem, leading to disparate health outcomes. To understand how women make sense of experiences of medical misdiagnosis, eight women from Aotearoa/ New Zealand were interviewed about misdiagnosis of conditions that equally affect female and male bodies. This work was guided by feminist principles and used narrative analysis to develop the following three themes: (1) Contradictory dialogues: doctor as expert or not? (2) Self-advocacy in the misdiagnosis experience; and (3) Not taken seriously in healthcare settings: it’s all in your head. Supported by previous work, our findings assert that women are treated poorly in healthcare settings with detrimental outcomes for them and their wider community. Reasons for this include female bodies being excluded from medical research, so that little is known about how illnesses present in female bodies, or how they affect women. Problematically, knowledge founded on male bodies is used to diagnose conditions in women. These biases perpetuate gender stereotypes and preconceived beliefs about women. Unexplained symptoms are considered ‘made up’ or are blamed on women’s mental well- being. Women are therefore not always considered credible symptom reporters and may be dismissed and ignored by healthcare professionals.