80 percent of lab rats, guinea pigs, or whatever test animals, are apparently male. That is, according to a report done by Joséfa Lopez for Le Monde. (24 november, 2017)
When it comes to human test subjects, les than a quarter is a woman.
As a result, many medicines that have been tested on men are not suitable for women. Not only do they have untested side effects, they may even be counterproductive, having the opposite effect of what is intended.
The problem doesn’t limit itself to testing medicines. The model skeletons and bodies on display in doctors offices worldwide are traditionally based on the male body. Despite the fact that women are seen to attend doctors more, research seems to have a male bias. Even a female doctor might be better able to diagnose a male patient, and unprepared to understand her female patients.
Research, training, and other elements of medicine seem to have a male bias. Not only do we think of doctors as male, but we also tend to think of patients as male.
Apparently, women are often told medical symptoms are in their head. The worst, according to Marie Claire magazine, is when women are sent home while having heart attacks. Men are also discharged while having a heart attack, but women, according to The New England Journal of Medicine are seven times more likely to face that problem.
In the book Emergency Admissions (Kit Wharton, the Fifth Estate, 2017), there’s a story about a woman who thinks her chest pains are nothing, and apologizes to the ambulance for being called out. Later, however, they discover that she has died. If the ambulance drivers had known more, would she have still been alive?
On the other hand, there are many people who go to hospital in spite of nothing being wrong with them. These may be seen as the equivalent of prank callers, drunks and attention seekers. In the same book, most of these (in the UK at any rate) appear to be men. Perhaps a fine could be levied against such time wasters, to dissuade them from wasting valuable resources.
But, this won’t help women who aren’t understood by their doctors. Even when women are in the doctor’s office, the quality of their treatment is often inferior. As women’s bodies and hormones are different, so are their symptoms and necessary treatments.
If women express a desire to go into healthcare or medical research, they should be encouraged to do so. We already knew that. What we might need to learn is just how much women are needed in these fields.