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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Medical Sexism in the Midlands

When I was serving as an elected Vice-President of the College of Health, there were three serious wrongs that I was campaigning about: the cruel uselessness of the NHS Complaints Procedures, the need for a rational approach to the treatment of pain, and the sex prejudice of doctors that led to failure to investigate and treat women's physical problems. As a result, I received post from people damaged by the system. Most of this post was about the great suffering caused to women by the sex prejudice of doctors.

This is the letter I received from a woman in the Midlands:

Dear Margaret Wilde

Following the item by Peter Pallot in the Daily Telegraph I write to support your view that women, in particular, are too often dismissed as neurotic by their doctors, and no real attempt is made to find the real nature of their illness.

As a member of the Endometriosis Society - recently appointed a National Trustee - I know of many sufferers, including myself, who have for years been treated as neurotic before emergency admission to hospital has revealed the real cause of the symptoms.

Endometriosis is a very debilitating disease and the symptoms can be very vague. Many sufferers say that only when they pluck up the courage to say that intercourse is very painful that doctors do something about their problems. It is felt that when a man's pleasure is affected 'that can't be allowed!'

My own case with Endometriosis began with painful periods at the age of fifteen. I was treated with tranquillisers, over a number of years. I was told 'to pull myself together', by all the doctors in my practice. I did to some extent accept that what they said about me must be correct. (Now this makes me angry to think about it.) Just three weeks before emergency surgery in July 1971 - age 27 years - I was threatened with admission to Psychiatric Hospital if 'I didn't pull myself together'. On the day of my admission to hospital my GP said I had a pulled stomach muscle! Later that night my left ovary was removed in 'a near gangrenous state' and half of my right ovary. The surgeon, a lady, was very angry about my treatment, as I had the most advanced case of endometriosis she had ever seen.

In 1978 I began suffering again and had the galling experience of repeated visits to the doctors who still treated me as neurotic. In the spring of '79, almost 12 months later, a laparoscopy was done (to shut me up) and I was found to have Chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Multiple Adhesions and Chronic Infection. No wonder I had felt so ill!

Almost 5 years ago I began an association with the Endometriosis Society which is a self help support group. My aims were to try and do something to prevent other women going through my horrendous experiences. The most recent effort with this aim in mind has been the production of the booklet 'Endometriosis' for General Practitioners. At the moment its distribution has been limited to Coventry, Warwickshire, two London boroughs, Lincoln and Humberside, although when local groups raise the funds all General Practitioners throughout the country will receive one. Unfortunately Coventry and Warwickshire doctors have not returned the feedback sheets (only 2 out of 600) - but in the other areas the reception has been marvellous.

Thank you for doing this work on behalf of women.

Any further help you require, please contact me.

I have enclosed a copy of the booklet for you.

Kind Regards

Kay Adcocks
(Kay gave her permission for her name to be included here.)
You can read HERE about some of my own experience of terrible suffering and permanent harm done by the sex prejudice of health professionals.