A recent article published by The Guardian presented frightening information that could (and probably should) be alarming to all women. According to a study conducted by the Brain Tumor Charity, women with brain tumors are being dismissed at alarming rates when they attempt to seek medical intervention for symptoms.
Women who presented with symptoms consistent with brain tumors were being told by their primary care physicians that they were most likely just experiencing fatigue, while their male counterparts are much more likely to receive proper follow up (such as imaging and diagnostic tests) when reporting similar symptoms. The article presented a particularly troubling case study of a woman who visited her primary care physician five times, complaining of memory loss and personality changes (symptoms consistent with brain pressure) who was told she was “just really tired”. After she collapsed, a scan revealed a tumor roughly the size of a fist on her brain.
The reasoning behind the dismissal of complaints brought by women might stem from gender bias which has long been present in the medical community. A few decades ago, the dominant way of conducting research and performing diagnostic tests was governed by the “male disease model“. Only men were used as research test subjects (even for medications and surgical interventions which would later be used on women) and certain ailments, such as heart disease were thought of as “men’s problems”, while symptoms of cardiac issues in women tended to be minimized.
The Brain Tumor Charity reports that not only were women with tumors being misdiagnosed as suffering from fatigue and other ailments, they were sometimes even dismissed as “attention seeking” or as attempting to seek prescription medication (attempting to obtain a prescription by fraudulent means is a criminal offense).
Doctors owe their patients an appropriate standard of care when attempting to diagnose a potential illness. There is a proper diagnostic procedure which should be followed when a patient arrives with a specific complaint. Failure to provide the correct standard of care can constitute medical malpractice. Two forms of medical malpractice seen all too commonly are the failure to diagnose and delayed diagnosis. Failure to diagnose occurs when a patient was not diagnosed with a disease or condition, which resulted in delayed treatment or a complete failure to treat. A delayed diagnosis occurs when a patient’s doctor failed to noticed signs and symptoms of a disease in a timely manner. When the true cause of a patient’s ailment is something life-threatening, such as a brain tumor, the failure to diagnose and/or a delayed diagnosis can have devastating effects on the patient and their families.
If you or someone you love has been affected by what you think may have been a failure to diagnose, or a delayed diagnosis, please contact the team and Gilman & Bedigian. Working with our staff physician, we will examine the details of your case and help you get any compensation you may be entitled.