The strive for equality between the sexes has been a long and arduous fight. Although women have more choices and better treatment today than 100 years ago, sexism is still prevalent in modern healthcare. The problem is not only in hospitals and clinics, it extends to clinical trials.
Clinical trials have usually, and sometimes only, included men during the trial process. This overrepresentation of men in clinical trials was so severe throughout history that even in studies that only affected women, like a 1986 study about the effects of obesity and its relationship to breast and uterine cancer, were only studied in men. A clinical study that should have been conducted on solely women, was conducted solely on men. Additionally, between 1997 and 2001, several drugs pulled from the market due to their negative impact on women’s health. This was due to the gender bias that was found, and can still be found, in the healthcare system. It wasn’t until 1993 that Congress passed the National Institute of Health Revitalization Act. This act encouraged researchers to include more women in their clinical trials. The act has been successful in aiding the process of including more women in clinical trials, but more needs to be done. The gender bias doesn’t stop in clinical trials, it continues in hospitals and clinics.
A study conducted in 2018 showed a disparity in heart attack deaths between men and women. The study found that 13.3% of women died when treated by male doctors for their heart attack, compared to 12.6% of men that died. When being treated by a female doctor, 12% of women died, compared to 11.8% of men. Although the gap lessens when women are treated by women, the gap still remains. These disparities in death are likely due to the process of clinical trials. The truth is that men and women experience different symptoms when having a heart attack. The clinical trials that study heart attacks are usually conducted on men and do not take into account the symptoms of heart attacks that are particular to women. The exclusion of women in studies leads to a higher risk of death.
The issue of sexism isn’t only seen in clinical trials and treatment in hospitals, it also extends to a woman's choices about her body. There are countless stories one can read online about women being denied a tubal ligation to prevent unwanted pregnancies for the most illegitimate reasons. Women in my own family have been denied this procedure simply because a doctor refused to perform it, and not for medical reasons. Women are often told “they are too young,” or that “they will regret tying their tubes once they meet a man that wants kids.” A woman shouldn’t be denied a medical procedure due to the societal expectation that they have to have children. Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that many women have, and will, faced.
The fight for true gender equality in healthcare is far from over. Including women in more clinical trials and dismantling the belief that all women should reproduce is only the first step. Although the fight for equality has been tiring at times, we still have more to do. The life and choices of women are worth the continuous struggle.