Debate: Should doctors treat women differently from men?

A report on Ontario’s health care suggests that there are various ways in which women’s health is different from men’s’and

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A report on Ontario’s health care suggests that there are various ways in which women’s health is different from men’s’and the healthcare system may not be accomodating them. According to an article from the Toronto Star, the report, issued by Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario, indicates the burden of being care givers, poverty and lack of support as factors which prevent women from seeking or obtaining the medical attention they need.

I admit, it’s hard for me to find the time to schedule and go to the appointments I need, so I can’t imagine how difficult it is with the added responsibilities such child care that many women have. Do you find yourself putting off the doctor or hoping that cough will go away on its own because child care, time or transportation issues make it difficult to access proper health care?

As far as what the report hopes to do for healthcare policy, Dr. Arlene Bierman, who sat on the report’s committee, says, "We want to optimize care for everyone. We need to tailor and adapt to local people and local context."

Bierman also says women are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions as they age such as diabetes, heart failure and arthritis.

And apparently, women and men may present with different symptoms. For example, Pat Campbell, CEO of Echo, says when suffering from a heart attack, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms such as excessive fatigue and jaw pain, whereas the most common symptom is chest pain. I had no idea an illness might have different symptoms in someone based on their gender, and I wonder how many doctors currently consider this.

Combine these facts with the reality that many women are overextended and extremely busy being wives, mothers and career women, so much so that they might neglect or delay getting treatment, it doesn’t surprise me that their health may suffer.

Do you think gender should be a factor in how doctors doctors diagnose and treat their patients?

Related:
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Why women outlive men
Canada’s best medical care for women

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