Women are 32% more likely to die when operated on by a male surgeon. With medical misogyny so rife, is it surprising so many of us turn to alternative therapies for help?

A new study has revealed that women are 32% more likely to die after an operation by a male surgeon. It gets worse. Women are also more likely to experience complications and be readmitted to hospital when a man performs the procedure, compared to when a woman performs the procedure. 

The study, which assessed 1.3 million patients, and nearly 3,000 surgeons, was co-authored by Dr Angela Jerath, an associate professor and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Toronto in Canada, who commented that the results had “real-world medical consequences for female patients and manifests itself in more complications, readmissions to hospital and death for females compared with males”.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance where women have been treated as second class citizens by modern medicine. A couple of years ago, there was a clinical trial of the male contraceptive injection. The results showed that although the injection had a 98.4% efficacy rate at pregnancy prevention (making it more effective than condoms) the side effects that the men experienced were too severe. These side effects included acne (45%) and mood swings (20%). Um…

Then there’s the research on heart attacks. The majority of data comes from research performed on men due to the fact that women have historically been excluded from clinical trials and biomedical research. Even now, only one third of cardiovascular clinical trial subjects are female. It was only recently (in the past decade) that scientists and doctors realised that women present with different symptoms to men when they’re having a heart attack. This particular gender bias has resulted in women who suffer a heart attack being 50% more likely than men to be given a wrong initial diagnosis and further research has estimated that over ten years, more than 8,000 women in England and Wales could have been saved if they received equal heart attack care to men. Not cool.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the wellness industry has proliferated primarily among women. Many wellness treatments and alternative medicines address issues such as hormonal imbalances, periods and fertility issues. Emma Cannon, a holistic fertility expert, has made it her life mission to unite wellness with modern medicine. “I believe wellness has been allowed to proliferate because people aren’t getting what they need from the health system – and I’ve spent the last 25 years trying to work collaboratively between the two.”

“Patients aren’t getting the help they want partly because medicine is so patriarchal and it takes so long for a practice to become mainstream,” she explains. “I have patients who are going through IVF, and the clinics don’t speak to them about their sex lives. The system sometimes offers nothing unless they’re sure they have a medical solution for it, as in the case of improving couples’ sex lives. But some lifestyle factors have a huge impact on health outcomes, they just haven’t made it into the mainstream yet.”

Emma specialises in uniting modern medicine with a combination of lifestyle, diet and emotional advice to provide her patients with a holistic treatment program. “I’m the first to say if someone needs to see a doctor, but I’m also the first to offer them diet, emotional and environmental advice. If you come to see me, you might walk out with a referral to a surgeon, a shaman, or anything in between.”