Sexism Effects Clinical Decision-Making as Well
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Neil S. Calman


Sexism Effects Clinical Decision-Making as Well

July 25, 2009

In repsonse to my last two blog posts, a number of readers responded that women, not just people of color, experience bias and disrespect in the health care system. This brought to mind a study done over 20 years ago by a brilliant colleague of mine, Dr. Jonathan N. Tobin. His 1987 Study published in the July 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (Volume 107, pp 19-25) revealed that there was substantial “Sex Bias in Considering Coronary Bypass Surgery”.

The abstract of that study reads in part:
” In a study of 390 patients consecutively referred for nuclear exercise testing, abnormal results found in 31% of the women and in 64% of the men affected physicians’ decisions to recommend catheterization in men only; 4% of the women with abnormal radionuclide scans were referred for catheterization compared with 40% of the men (p < 0.001). This 10:1 ratio was independent of age." Gender bias, racial bias, bias against obese individuals, bias against those who speak a language other than English - all affect the care that patients recieve in the health care system. And they have secondary effects as well - as some of the commentors on my previous blogs pointed out - they make one loathe to go to the doctor at all. And with no medical visit, the odds are that people neglect needed preventive care and comprehensive care for chronic conditions. Can this problem be helped through training? Perhaps. But we have a very long way to go. And tragically - for decades since the Tobin article was published, there is little evidence that we have made any substantial progress.

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A blog dedicated to the fight for social justice, logic, efficiency, quality and compassion in the way health services are delivered, paid for and regulated. My hope is to engage with you in a bold conversation of health care issues – and share my perspective as a physician, as CEO of a non-profit health care system, and as one who seeks to make the lives of those around him happier and healthier.

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