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New research has emerged showing that women are more likely to survive heart attacks if they’re treated by a female doctor. The result comes from a look at more than half a million heart attack cases over the course of 20 years in Florida. If you’re a woman and you think you’re having a heart attack, you can improve your chances of survival by 5.4% by seeing a female doctor about it.
At this point, if you’re a man who is on the Internet, you are probably asking the question, but what about the men? I’m so glad you asked, Donny. The study showed that men also had a better chance of surviving if their doctor is a woman (just not as drastic an improvement as the female patients saw).
But what about the male doctors, you probably want to know. The study also showed that male doctors were much more competent if they had increased exposure to female patients and female physicians. Not as competent as the female physicians, of course, but it’s something. All of this is particularly galling when you realize that another recent study showed that male doctors make about $100,000 more than female doctors every year. Men make twice as much money but kill more patients. But don’t worry, I’m assured by many Donnies on the Internet that sexism is a thing of the past. Nope, nothing to see here, just a normal, egalitarian society.
So why do female physicians do so much better than male physicians when a woman is having a heart attack? It may be due to a few things. For instance, the symptoms of a heart attack may be slightly different between men and women, with women experiencing lesser known symptoms like nausea and dizziness. But even for the well-known symptoms, like chest pain and arm numbness, women are more likely to brush it off as just being their imagination. Women tend to wait much longer than men to even seek treatment, which can mean the difference between life and death.
So how might female doctors make up for this disparity? Well, they may be more likely to know that women respond differently to heart attacks and be more alert for the red flags. They might be more likely to notice rarer symptoms, or to be able to tell when a woman is downplaying the severity of her condition. Female doctors may be more likely to have the personal experience that many women have of not being taken seriously by doctors, and they may use that experience to act more quickly and decisively in serious situations.
The moral of the story here isn’t simple. We can’t fix things just by telling women (and men) to only go see female doctors, though maybe that’s a good start. Ultimately, we as a society need to be better at validating women’s experiences with their own bodies. We need to take them seriously when something is wrong, and only then can we expect them to take it seriously themselves.