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It seems natural to think that men and women have the same basic health concerns and that a treatment or drug will work the same no matter who receives it. Contrary to what women’s lib would have us believe, when it comes to our physical bodies, men and women are not the same. But even doctors don’t always recognize how true this statement is.
Historically and even in present-day medical schools, medical students are surrounded with information about the bodies of men. Text books show anatomy drawings of basically male bodies, even if the sex organs are missing. These drawings and even the language used to describe a generic "patient" imply that men and women are essentially the same – women just tend to be a bit smaller than men. In reality, on-going research by doctors specializing in gender-specific medicine shows that men and women are different in virtually every organ and system in the body. Research also shows that men and women react to treatments differently and need different care to maintain their health.
The use of generic or neutral language has become so much a habit in medical science that some researchers who study gender-specific medicine believe most doctors, no matter where they were trained, are experiencing "gender-blindness". Gender-blindness is described as a "failure to identify or acknowledge difference on the basis of gender where it is significant." This means that doctors, researchers, students, and even patients may be unaware that basic differences between men and women can affect their health and the way they should be treated. Because gender-blindness is considered the norm for medical training and research, many doctors will never consider that there should be distinctions made between male and female, both in research and in treating specific conditions.
As a patient, gender-blindness in your doctor may mean your health or treatment options are being limited. For example, doctors in general are much more likely to warn men than women about the risks of heart disease, and are more likely to recognize the threat of a heart attack in a male patient than in a female.