These Women Are Fighting Back After Being Discriminated by Doctors

Heidi Metcalf, a nurse, had a traumatic experience when giving birth to her second child. A male obstetrician forcefully removed her placenta without any prior communication or warning. 

Metcalf is one of many Australian women who have shared their experiences following the government’s initiative to address “medical misogyny.” Many women across the country have experienced gender bias or discrimination in healthcare, particularly during vulnerable moments like intimate examinations or during labor. 

Some women have experienced their pain being disregarded or incorrectly diagnosed. Women, in a study conducted by the BBC, have also noted that men in their lives received more attention and validation for their pain.

Medical professionals in Australia have been criticized for overlooking the seriousness of women’s health issues, which has led to frustration and feelings of being patronized and unsupported by the healthcare system. Women’s health has also been influenced by harmful gender stereotypes, with the term “hysteria” used to describe emotional pain rather than biological ones.

The lack of diversity in medical research exacerbates this issue, with most participants in early-stage clinical trials being white men. This can lead to complications in treatment, diagnosis, and understanding of symptoms for women, trans, and gender-diverse people. The approach to healthcare is described as one-size-fits-all and male-centric, resulting in significant knowledge gaps.

A 2019 study revealed that women tended to receive diagnoses later than men across 770 diseases. In Australia, a 2018 study revealed concerning disparities in the treatment and outcomes of females admitted to the hospital for severe heart attacks. Women were less likely to receive appropriate treatment compared to men, and they had a higher mortality rate six months after being discharged.

Experts have cautioned about the ongoing issue of insufficient funding for health concerns explicitly affecting women, such as endometriosis, which has no cure and takes patients seven years to receive a diagnosis. A recent study revealed that a significant number of Australian women are still receiving advice from health professionals suggesting pregnancy will resolve their symptoms despite mounting evidence that this belief is medically unfounded.

Australia is making progress in addressing gender inequity in healthcare. The latest national budget allocates approximately A$100m ($66m; £52m) to address various aspects related to gynaecological conditions, menopause, pregnancy loss, and fertility. However, advocates like Bonney Corbin, chair of Australia’s Women’s Health Alliance, believe that the current cash injection is insufficient and that state governments should take more responsibility.