The mesh implant scandal has highlighted how doctors must properly listen to women, says a male patient safety expert

PUBLISHED: 17:44 19 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:44 19 November 2018

Bruce Hugman, communications specialist for Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) Sweden. Picture: BRUCE HUGMAN

Bruce Hugman, communications specialist for Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) Sweden. Picture: BRUCE HUGMAN


The mesh implant scandal has highlighted how women are often ignored by doctors and face a health care system that does not understand their needs, according to a patient safety expert.

Bruce Hugman, communications specialist for Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) Sweden. Picture: BRUCE HUGMANBruce Hugman, communications specialist for Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) Sweden. Picture: BRUCE HUGMAN

Women suffer from more illnesses throughout their lifetime than men, yet doctors often do not give proper time or serious attention to them, leaving some suffering for years, he said.

Bruce Hugman, communications specialist for Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden, says in addition, the risk of treatments are often not properly communicated to women.

Mr Hugman, part of a global organisation dedicated to improving patient safety, said: “Doctors must listen, give time and pay serious attention to women.

“Healthcare systems, institutions and priorities are designed and managed largely by men; many women are subject to the arbitrary rule of male authority.

“Successful health care for women can happen only when patient’s own personal health stories are deeply appreciated and risk of any treatment or operation are properly communicated.

“Chronic pelvic pain has long been neglected, even disparaged; the vaginal mesh implant disaster took years to be taken seriously, clandestine abortions represent a huge threat.

“Although women live longer than men almost everywhere, they suffer from more illnesses and disabilities throughout their lives.

“Reproductive health, cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, visual impairment, osteoarthritis, dementia and other diseases of old age, are major issues.

“In coronary heart disease, women receive less effective treatment and have poorer outcomes than men.

“In conditions unique to women such as pregnancy and menopause, there are vast disparities in access, treatment and outcomes within nations and across the world.

“Many of the treatments for women are complex, problematic or risky. Screening for breast cancer, medication for epilepsy and other procedures and conditions in pregnancy, menopausal hormone therapy, contraception among them.

“Recruitment of women in clinical trials, neglect of issues of importance to women in research (such as endometriosis and menopause); differential and discriminatory treatment (excess opioid prescription for pain), oppressive male behaviour and neglect of compassionate care, all exhibit systemic bias, a real danger for women.

“Data and information are often not disaggregated by sex.

“Millions of women have little or no access to healthcare or are inhibited or prevented from accessing it.

“Women in ethnic and sexual minorities, even within affluent societies, endure higher risks of pregnancy related complications and deaths than white women, rural women, higher risks than urban women.”

Bruce said three major changes are needed;

• Women need easy access to the best information, ideally access to local, well informed health workers, preferably women.

• Researchers and health workers, must act on the belief that the needs, preferences and priorities of women are important and quite different from those of men.

• Women’s health and welfare, their potential for self-management, the risk of treatment regret, are intimately influenced by political, social, economic, systemic, spiritual and psychological operators that are additional, major risk factors that require recognition.

Mr Hugman said: “Without knowledge and wisdom in the richness, complexity and risks of women’s lives, even good data is a poor servant, and the statistical benefits and harms of medicines unreliable guides.

“The authentic narratives of women’s lives are the essential foundation for good risk communication and good health care.

“Doctors must listen, give time and pay serious attention to them.”

• Uppsala Monitoring Centre is a not for profit foundation dedicated to safer use of medicines and treatments for patients everywhere, through a science known as pharmacovigilance. Uppsala has been associated with the World Health Organisation since 1978.


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