Medical professionals are some of the most-respected and best-compensated workers in the United States. They spent years pursuing an education that allows them to help people protect and improve their health. Especially when it comes to physicians or medical doctors, patients expect professionalism and a commitment to provide the best standard of care possible. They trust that any doctor who treats them will act in their best interests. Unfortunately, many people seeking medical treatment do not receive the same standard of care that others do.
Many medical professionals allow their deep-set conscious and/or subconscious biases to affect the care they provide and the diagnostic work that they perform. There are two specific personal characteristics in particular that put someone at increased risk of diagnostic oversights in a professional medical setting.
1. The sex of the patient
Sex bias in medicine is a known issue. Medical schools fail to properly teach about female health issues, like menopause, and many studies treat the male body as the standard, leading to gaps in treatment and diagnostic knowledge.
Doctors who struggle with sexism may not provide the same standard of care for all patients. Researchers have found that female patients are more likely to survive operations when the surgeon performing their procedure is also a woman.
Doctors may dismiss the symptoms reported by women, including pain and trouble sleeping, that might actually play a key role in diagnosing their medical condition. Misdiagnosis and medical neglect often affect women at higher rates than men because of bias among care providers.
2. The race of the patient
Racism can be an issue even for those working in the medical system. Both biases against individuals of specific races and those of darker complexion are well-known issues in the medical field.
Researchers have found, for example, that doctors often think that darker complexions may lead to higher pain tolerance or a greater likelihood to misrepresent symptoms. Both of those misconceptions might lead to doctors under-treating or misdiagnosing patients because of their race.
Those harmed by the conscious or subconscious biases of the professionals providing their care can potentially fight back by pursuing a medical malpractice claim. Holding care providers and medical facilities responsible for unsafe and biased practices can, in turn, compensate victims and improve their standard of care for future patients.