Why doctors do not pay enough attention to women

Males generally enjoy better medical care than their female counterparts. For example, males are seen quicker and their concerns taken more seriously.

Both men and women in Rhode Island deserve a doctor's best efforts. All too often, though, doctors do not take women's concerns as seriously as they do men's. Nor is the problem isolated to doctors; nurses, administrators and others also tend to give more weight to men's needs.

Many theories try to explain why this is so. However, there is no denying that American culture leans toward minimizing female pain and encouraging females to not rock the boat too much. Thus, some females suffering an emergency might, in fact, downplay their own pain.

Attention is elsewhere

Maternal mortality in the United States-that is, the death rate of women who have recently given birth-is alarmingly high, and the CDC Foundation estimates that almost 60 percent of these deaths could be prevented. At the same time, infant mortality in the United States is the lowest it has ever been.

What has happened is basically this: Medical personnel are paying more attention to babies at the expense of their mothers' health. It need not be a one-or-the-other situation. There is absolutely room for both mother and child to receive the medical attention they deserve. Why this is not happening could perhaps be the longstanding tradition of society expecting women to sacrifice for their children. Whatever the reason(s), it is dangerous and does not empower women to be in charge of their own health.

Cultural attitudes persist

From a young age, many boys and girls get exposed to certain societal attitudes. For example, a man can be "confident" or "powerful," while a woman is called "bossy" or "dramatic" for the same behavior. These attitudes carry over in medical settings. When a man seeks medical attention, the default perspective is that he needs it and should be treated as soon as possible.

When a woman seeks medical attention, however, the default at many places, consciously or not, is that she might be acting a little bit over the top and that waiting longer in the emergency room is not going to harm her. In fact, many women who are in tremendous pain question the extent of what they feel and delay medical treatment because cultural attitudes have interfered with how well they can listen to their own bodies. They may also have internalized messages about importance. For example, there has been much controversy over insurance plans easily covering medications such as Viagra, but quite a few women who want contraceptives such as birth control pills have to jump hurdles to get it.

The bottom line is that at many medical facilities in Rhode Island, female patients are especially at risk. If they have been harmed, they and/or their family members may want to consult an attorney.