Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath when they begin practicing medicine. When reciting that oath, they agree to apply all measures that are required to treat the sick. While also remembering that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh a surgeon’s knife. 

It’s a meaningful message, but all too often, it’s treated as nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Countless doctors seem to interpret “apply all measures required to treat the sick” to mean apply only the most convenient measures.

This creates a medical bias, where doctors decide treatment courses for patients based on stereotypes, rather than on the individual patient. This bias is usually subtle, they may not even be aware of it. Often, it’s the patients themselves who end up realizing their doctor isn’t doing what’s right for them.

When dangerous stereotypes are built into the system, they can lead to disastrous consequences. The most devastating of which is wrongful death.

Medical Bias: What It Is, And How Does It Affect You

Medical bias is when a healthcare professional has subconsciously held beliefs that impact their actions regarding patient care. To further explain, let’s use a few common examples of medical bias. 

  • Doctors often refuse to consider that a male patient could have fibromyalgia because only 10% of males do.
  • Overweight patients are often told they should have surgery because of the misconception that they won’t be able to stick to a weight loss plan.
  • 50% to 75% of ADHD cases in young girls are missed by professionals because they were only taught how the symptoms present in males.
  • Women have a 50% higher rate of being misdiagnosed when they’re having a heart attack than men because the “common heart attack symptoms” we’ve all heard of are only the common symptoms in men.

These examples prove that medical bias is alive and well in the modern medical community. So how does that affect you? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer.

What, if any, medical biases you experience will depend on your health, background, and choice of doctors. You may have already been the victim of medical bias without even realizing it.

 If you do realize you’ve been a victim of bias, you can switch doctors, confront them about the issue, or report them to the state. If you live in Chicago, for example, you can report a doctor to the State Medical Licensing Board, which handles the regulation of physicians in Illinois.

Photo by Günter Valda on Unsplash

Mistreatment: When Doctors Can’t Look Beyond What They See

One of the main issues with medical bias is that it leads to mistreatment. When a doctor can’t look beyond what they see.

They can miss critical symptoms or cause a patient to suffer unnecessarily. 

Take Edie Mcgee for example. Her doctor forced her to live with a seven-inch hernia that caused her intestines to bulge out because he refused to perform surgery unless she lost 50 pounds. What he failed to see was that the discomfort caused by the hernia prevented her from being able to exercise, trapping her in a cycle of pain.

Hers is just one of many cases of how medical bias based on weight can affect patient care. That bias is the reason that 35% of overweight women say they delay seeking medical attention. That delay can be the difference between life and death for the patient. 

In cases like Mcgee’s, the bias could also lead to a lawsuit against the doctor if the patient were to die. Refusal of life-saving care is one of the main reasons people seek wrongful death lawsuits against medical professionals

Danger Of Delay: The Risk Of Failing To Create A Proper Treatment Plan

When a doctor fails to create a proper treatment plan due to medical bias, it can have disastrous consequences. Patients can become more ill, and even die as a result. The legal term for those deaths is “wrongful death.”

Wrongful death is when someone is killed due in part, or in full, to the negligence or misconduct of another person. Every year, hundreds of thousands of wrongful death cases involving negligent doctors are taken to trial.

If you have a loved one who recently passed away, and you believe they died due to medical bias or another failure from the doctor, you could qualify to seek a wrongful death lawsuit. 

The first step is to contact an accomplished attorney who practices in your state. This is important because different states have different laws regarding who can seek a wrongful death suit on behalf of a deceased victim.

In the state of Illinois, for instance, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act only allows spouses or children to seek cases. If there are no spouses or children, then a sibling or parent may attempt to sue as well.

Laws like this are why it’s important to have a professional in your corner when you go to trial.

Bottom Line

Medical bias is a dangerous reality that can lead to major complications, including death. The first step to protecting yourself and others is being aware of the issues surrounding this dangerous form of stereotyping.

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Guest Writer

This post has been curated by a Longevity Live editor for the website.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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