In the Australian newspaper on October 18, 2019, was an article reprinted from The Times in London, by a medical practitioner, Dr Mark Porter, who detailed a new report called Bias and Biology by the British Heart Foundation which estimated that more than 8000 women in England and Wales died needlessly after a heart attack between 2002 -13 “because they weren’t offered the same standard of care as their male peers”.
Porter continued that “The bias exists across the medical spectrum despite the dawning realisation that differences between the sexes-in everything from hormone levels to how they metabolise drugs-can have a profound effect on the development and treatment of conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to lung cancer”. However, Porter does acknowledge that “fortunately, at least in cardiovascular research, this imbalance largely has been addressed in recent years with the male-to-female ratio in trials testing new drugs reflecting the make-up of the population to which they are likely to be prescribed.”
BUT, how many other illnesses and diagnoses are still affected by this bias, and as Porter wrote, this bias exists across the medical spectrum. Of course, I’ve written about the bias in the mental health industry and the consequences of this bias can be tragic, if not fatal, too.
More than 25 years ago, I interviewed a female psychiatrist about the gender bias in the profession, and the psychiatrist acknowledged that the shrinks had two different norms of behaviour for males and females, adding depressingly, that gender was not an issue for the doctors, but was for the patients. Previously, I wrote a freelance article highlighting the need for the doctors to reappraise their attitudes to female patients interviewing a couple of female shrinks who said change was needed but suffice to say I couldn’t get the article published. Moreover, my experience six years ago at St Vincent’s only reflected nothing at all had changed in attitudes towards females or specifically, towards me.
Porter’s comments raise the issue of WHY other treatment procedures are still pervaded by bias and why more has not been done to address this. It is a particularly sad reality that males still seem to obtain better care than females, although he does not mention anything about mental health. The recent Victorian Royal Commission in the Mental Health System revealed “abuse and mistreatment” in the industry, though gender was apparently, from what I perused, not an issue of focus. It should have been and that’s all I have to say at the moment. To say I feel vindicated with Porter’s comments is an understatement. Porter is a GP and medical correspondent for The Times in England and also broadcasts on British radio.