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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsThe female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health – The Guardian (Gabrielle Jackson | November 2019)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health – The Guardian (Gabrielle Jackson | November 2019)

 


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Centuries of female exclusion has meant women’s diseases are often missed, misdiagnosed or remain a total mystery

From the earliest days of medicine, women have been considered inferior versions of men. In On the Generation of Animals, the Greek philosopher Aristotle characterised a female as a mutilated male, and this belief has persisted in western medical culture.

The historical, and continued, exclusion of women from clinical trials is a significant problem that really hasn’t been addressed by drives by granting bodies.  Similar exclusion tends to be the experience of people whose first language isn’t English, people living with a disability and First Nation peoples. Researchers and research ethics review bodies can play an important role in addressing this major problem.

“For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia, tells me.
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Young’s research has uncovered how doctors fill knowledge gaps with hysteria narratives. This is particularly prevalent when women keep returning to the doctor, stubbornly refusing to be saved.
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“The historical hysteria discourse was most often endorsed when discussing ‘difficult’ women, referring to those for whom treatment was not helpful or who held a perception of their disease alternative to their clinician,” Young wrote in a research paper published in the journal Feminism & Psychology.

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