Tag Archives: medical

Keeping medical cannabis from children is callous, and foolish | Ian Birrell

The first medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania have opened their doors over the past few days. Thousands of patients with serious medical conditions have registered to access the drug, which comes in oils, patches and vaporisers, rather than smokable leaf form. The historic first purchase in the state was by Diana Briggs, the mother of a teenage son with severe epilepsy. “I am beyond thrilled,” she said. “There’s no more fear, no more stress for our family.”

Briggs campaigned for this moment after seeing how the drug reduced her son’s seizures from more than 400 a day to fewer than 50. As I know from my own daughter, who also has serious epilepsy, this is a miserable condition when poorly controlled by conventional medicine. Even after 24 years, I still find seizures distressing to watch – seeing the fear on her face when they start, holding her thrashing body tight for several minutes, then making her comfortable when she is left drained for hours. There is nagging fear in the knowledge that these episodes can kill.

Contrast the tears of joy for that mother in the US with the concern facing another mother in Britain. Hannah Deacon sees her six-year-old son, Alfie Dingley, endure up to 30 violent seizures a day. His type of epilepsy is so aggressive that he ended up in hospital 48 times in one year. Then he went to the Netherlands, and enjoyed 24 days without a single attack. The difference seems to have been made by a cannabis-based medication – just three small drops of oil – prescribed by a paediatric neurologist. “We’ve found something that makes him happy,” said his mother.

But since returning to Britain, Alfie has had to return to injections of steroids that are less effective and might eventually cause his organs to fail. This child is another innocent victim of the global war on drugs – perhaps the most foolish aspect of this futile 50-year fight has been the ban on medical marijuana. Now, Pennsylvania has become the 29th state in America to permit its use, while Italy and Germany are among European nations considering this shift.


Families with epilepsy are allowed to routinely use stronger, more addictive drugs such as barbiturates

Slowly, however, things are changing. But there seems still to be befuddled stupor in Whitehall. This is perhaps unsurprising, under a prime minister whose policy record on drugs during her time as home secretary showed clear disdain for evidence. Yet it is callous and morally confused to stop patients accessing a cheap, safe and readily available drug that could improve life so dramatically. It is also irresponsible to ignore its fiscal potential, given the importance of the pharmaceutical sector to our economy. Among those planning to dispense the drug in Pennsylvania is a firm run by a former British policeman, Michael Abbott. His company, Columbia Care, has won licences in 12 states, and its boss would love nothing more than to be able to offer the drug to his home country. At one of his New York dispensaries I met his chief pharmacist. She explained she was at first embarrassed to be linked to the cannabis trade, and became a convinced advocate only after seeing changes in patients using the drug, especially for chronic pain, late-stage cancer and complex child epilepsy.

This does not have to be a Trojan horse for wider drug reform. And yes, much of the evidence is anecdotal since cannabis research has been hampered by illegality – although it is worth noting that Big Pharma seems resistant to an emerging industry that has reduced opioid deaths in American states where it is permitted to operate. Besides, why are families with epilepsy allowed to routinely use stronger, more addictive drugs such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines in their homes but not cannabis?

Polls find that more than two-thirds of Britons and more than half of MPs back the use of medical marijuana. Perhaps we will see a revolt on Friday, when the Labour MP Paul Flynn tries to reschedule cannabis for medical purposes in a private bill. For where is the compassion or sense in letting children such as Alfie needlessly suffer?

Ian Birrell is a former deputy editor of the Independent and worked as a speechwriter for David Cameron during the 2010 election campaign

Keeping medical cannabis from children is callous, and foolish | Ian Birrell

The first medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania have opened their doors over the past few days. Thousands of patients with serious medical conditions have registered to access the drug, which comes in oils, patches and vaporisers, rather than smokable leaf form. The historic first purchase in the state was by Diana Briggs, the mother of a teenage son with severe epilepsy. “I am beyond thrilled,” she said. “There’s no more fear, no more stress for our family.”

Briggs campaigned for this moment after seeing how the drug reduced her son’s seizures from more than 400 a day to fewer than 50. As I know from my own daughter, who also has serious epilepsy, this is a miserable condition when poorly controlled by conventional medicine. Even after 24 years, I still find seizures distressing to watch – seeing the fear on her face when they start, holding her thrashing body tight for several minutes, then making her comfortable when she is left drained for hours. There is nagging fear in the knowledge that these episodes can kill.

Contrast the tears of joy for that mother in the US with the concern facing another mother in Britain. Hannah Deacon sees her six-year-old son, Alfie Dingley, endure up to 30 violent seizures a day. His type of epilepsy is so aggressive that he ended up in hospital 48 times in one year. Then he went to the Netherlands, and enjoyed 24 days without a single attack. The difference seems to have been made by a cannabis-based medication – just three small drops of oil – prescribed by a paediatric neurologist. “We’ve found something that makes him happy,” said his mother.

But since returning to Britain, Alfie has had to return to injections of steroids that are less effective and might eventually cause his organs to fail. This child is another innocent victim of the global war on drugs – perhaps the most foolish aspect of this futile 50-year fight has been the ban on medical marijuana. Now, Pennsylvania has become the 29th state in America to permit its use, while Italy and Germany are among European nations considering this shift.


Families with epilepsy are allowed to routinely use stronger, more addictive drugs such as barbiturates

Slowly, however, things are changing. But there seems still to be befuddled stupor in Whitehall. This is perhaps unsurprising, under a prime minister whose policy record on drugs during her time as home secretary showed clear disdain for evidence. Yet it is callous and morally confused to stop patients accessing a cheap, safe and readily available drug that could improve life so dramatically. It is also irresponsible to ignore its fiscal potential, given the importance of the pharmaceutical sector to our economy. Among those planning to dispense the drug in Pennsylvania is a firm run by a former British policeman, Michael Abbott. His company, Columbia Care, has won licences in 12 states, and its boss would love nothing more than to be able to offer the drug to his home country. At one of his New York dispensaries I met his chief pharmacist. She explained she was at first embarrassed to be linked to the cannabis trade, and became a convinced advocate only after seeing changes in patients using the drug, especially for chronic pain, late-stage cancer and complex child epilepsy.

This does not have to be a Trojan horse for wider drug reform. And yes, much of the evidence is anecdotal since cannabis research has been hampered by illegality – although it is worth noting that Big Pharma seems resistant to an emerging industry that has reduced opioid deaths in American states where it is permitted to operate. Besides, why are families with epilepsy allowed to routinely use stronger, more addictive drugs such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines in their homes but not cannabis?

Polls find that more than two-thirds of Britons and more than half of MPs back the use of medical marijuana. Perhaps we will see a revolt on Friday, when the Labour MP Paul Flynn tries to reschedule cannabis for medical purposes in a private bill. For where is the compassion or sense in letting children such as Alfie needlessly suffer?

Ian Birrell is a former deputy editor of the Independent and worked as a speechwriter for David Cameron during the 2010 election campaign

A tall tale? Accuracy of Trump’s medical report – and new height – questioned

So-called ‘Girthers’ question why Trump’s stated height is taller than his license says, and the convenience of his being 1lb shy of obese

Trump’s driving license, issued in May 2012, stated his height as 6ft 2in.


Donald Trump’s driving license, issued in May 2012, stated his height as 6ft 2in. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Donald Trump’s surprisingly glowing medical report has led to questions about the accuracy of some of the data announced by White House physician Dr Ronny Jackson on Tuesday – including how a man in his 70s has apparently grown an inch in height.

Trump’s driving license, issued in May 2012, stated his height as 6ft 2in. Yet according to the report issued by the White House physician on Tuesday, Trump is 6ft 3in.

The seeming growth spurt led to people comparing images of Trump to celebrities who are allegedly of the same height.

One image showed Trump standing next to former baseball player Alex Rodriguez, who is 6ft 3in. Rodriguez looked considerably taller.

James Gunn (@JamesGunn)

Two 6’3″ men standing next to each other. #Girther #GirtherMovement pic.twitter.com/yI14O6YpQ6

January 17, 2018

A photo of Trump next to Barack Obama, taken one year ago at Trump’s inauguration, seemed to show that the pair were of the same height. Obama is 6ft 1in.

Eyebrows were also raised at Trump’s stated weight. His mass of 239lb was just 1lb under him being classed as obese.

The intrigue over the president’s body mass was fuelled by people sharing a series of photos of athletes who are also said to weigh around 239lb. The comparisons included NFL quarterback Jay Cutler and Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray, both of whom weigh around 235lb.

The athletes both looked significantly different from Trump.

Trump’s suggested weight and body circumference has given rise to the “girther” movement, and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn offered to pay $ 100,000 to a charity of Trump’s choosing if the president would publicly step on a weighing scale.

The president’s diet does not immediately suggest a man whose health is “excellent”, as White House physician Dr Ronny Jackson said.

Trump’s food intake has a heavy focus on McDonald’s, KFC and Oreo cookies, while he distrusts exercise – believing the human body comes with a finite amount of energy which is depleted by cardiovascular and resistance training.

Trump is being assigned a new diet and exercise regimen and hopes to lose 10-15lb.

Jackson said Trump’s life expectancy is “the same as every other American male right now, but it’s certainly no less”. The life expectancy for a man in the US is 76.1 years (Trump is 71).

During Obama’s presidency Trump suggested Obama was not born in the US, and in 2012 offered $ 5m to a charity of Obama’s choosing if the then president released his college records and passport applications.

The Guardian contacted Trump’s representatives at the time asking for Trump’s own college records and passport applications. A Trump adviser said that request was “stupid” and accused the Guardian of “trying to be funny”. The documents were not released.

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not explain what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis of endometriosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not explain what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis of endometriosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not explain what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis of endometriosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not explain what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis of endometriosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not explain what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis of endometriosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?

You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.

It is hard to know what to make of the research, or where to place it in the panoply of ways in which women get short shrift. Medical care – which, at its essence, is about keeping people alive – should, of course, be free of gender bias. Naturally, however, it is not.

This is not to discount the ways in which men fare badly within the system, particularly when it comes to mental health. Race and poverty also feed into bias in healthcare – both huge topics in their own rights. But there is no shortage of ways in which women are discriminated against in medicine. This is evident throughout history, from Aristotle’s distinction between the superior male “form” and inferior female “matter”, to the medieval idea that women (“leaky vessels”) were unbalanced due to their wombs. In antiquity, doctors recommended marriage as a cure for female psychological disorders, and the Victorians had an unfortunate habit of committing women to asylums, regardless of evidence of mental illness. Today, while female GPs outnumber male ones (52% to 48%), 55% of registered medical practitioners are male. And the majority of specialists – 66% – are men.

For patients, the stereotype runs thus: men are less aware of health problems than women, less attuned to symptoms and they don’t visit the doctor as often as women. In other words, men are silent stoics; women hysterical hypochondriacs. There is evidence for this, to an extent – government statistics published in 2010 showed that women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following five years.

But this does not square away what happens to women when they genuinely need treatment. In 2001, University of Maryland academics Diane Hoffman and Anita Tarzian published The Girl Who Cried Pain, an analysis of the ways gender bias plays out in clinical pain management. They examined several previous studies, including one that indicated women are more likely to be given sedatives for their pain and men given pain medication, and concluded that women were more likely to be inadequately treated by healthcare providers. Several authors attribute this to “a long history within our culture of regarding women’s reasoning capacity as limited”, the paper noted.

‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’


‘For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.’ Photograph: OhhhKaye.co.uk/Kaye Sedgwick-Jones.

In the 16 years since the paper was published, has anything changed? Probably not, says Tarzian, a programme coordinator at the University of Maryland’s school of law. “Every time you think things have changed, you look at the news and you think, ‘Hmm, maybe they haven’t.’ It still happens because that attitude people have towards gender is so inherent it’s hard to even be aware of – it’s subconscious.” Julia Buckley, a freelance journalist, can attest to this. Having had chronic pain since her teens, she was dismissed by doctors, told by a dentist she was “making it up” and, when she asked for physiotherapy on her arm so she could return to work, she was told to wait for a year, because she had already had physio on her leg. “I was gaslighted,” she says. “I don’t think I would have been treated that way if I were a man, and the psychological turmoil I was put through made everything worse.” She was finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that affects connective tissue, five years ago, aged 31, and has written a book about her experiences, Heal Me: In Search of a Cure, which is out in January. “Women need to be pushier, and not revere doctors so much,” she says. “I respect doctors, but they’re not infallible.” Tarzian agrees. The traditional medical system disadvantages women, who, unlike men, are socialised to question themselves, she says: “There’s an extra value for women to trust their instincts.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis. One in 10 women suffer from the disease, but it takes, on average, seven to eight years to be diagnosed. Emma Cox, the chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, says that unless women with the disease are trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors. “The attitude is that women are there to have babies,” she says.

It took Kaye Sedgwick Jones, a freelance illustrator and designer from Kent, more than 12 years to be diagnosed. In pain and seeking help, she was told by one doctor: “‘It’ll be better when you’ve had a baby’ … which, when you’re 13, is a weird thing to be told,” she says. When she was finally diagnosed, at age 25, her first reaction was “sheer anger. I was livid. For so many years I was told the pain was in my head.”

In September, new guidelines were published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), in a bid to speed up diagnosis. Nice added that the NHS must “listen to women”.

Sedgwick Jones, now 36, has decided not to have children, although she once wanted them. An earlier diagnosis, she says, could have made a difference. “I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a young woman,” she says. “I can’t imagine why it is still so difficult for a woman to walk into a GP’s office and say: ‘Help me, I’m in pain.’”

Dementia care is another area where women draw the short straw. In 2016, researchers at University College London found that women with dementia receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition. Namely, they make fewer visits to the GP, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful medication than men. “We know very clearly what’s happening, but we can’t clearly explain why from that data,” said Dr Claudia Cooper, who led the study. One factor, she says, could be that women, who live longer than men, are more likely to be alone and thus less likely to have a primary carer to help them. “Two-thirds of people over 80 are women,” she says. “But they are the marginalised majority.”

This is a big, unwieldy issue is a discussion that is perhaps too amorphous for some. Health charities the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, along with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, were all approached for comment for this article but failed to provide anyone to talk to.

For Buckley, gender bias in healthcare is an epidemic that needs to be addressed: “People are dying because they are female and doctors are blinded by their gender,” she says. “Don’t assume that women are hysterical. That’s quite basic. Treat everyone as a person.”

Hospitals in crisis in Uganda as Middle Eastern countries poach medical staff

The failure to stop a brain drain of almost 2,000 of its best doctors and nurses is exacerbating Uganda’s healthcare crisis, reflecting a growing problem across east Africa, say healthcare workers.

At least 1,963 medics are being recruited to work at one hospital alone in Libya, as Middle Eastern countries turn to the region for highly qualified workers to fill their own vacancies, which have increased amid political instability and migration.

Nurses, laboratory technicians and doctors in different fields are being recruited from public health facilities, private hospitals and the not-for-profit sector, with no clear government plan to mitigate the impact on the domestic health sector, medical workers say.

“This one [Libyan] deal, if executed, will worsen the shortage of health workers, undermining service delivery and the investment by donors to the health sector,” said a statement from the Uganda Civil Society HIV Prevention Advocacy Coalition.

The coalition, a group of workers and patients, wants a temporary halt to recruitment, to allow urgent discussions at government level. “This deal will make the health crisis worse in Uganda – actively facilitating export of critical cadres of health workers will accelerate suffering and death,” said Asia Russell, executive director of the Health Global Access Project (Health Gap). “The government is refusing to increase production, retention and motivation of health workers in order to save lives.”

Dona Anyona, of the health system advocacy partnership at Amref Health Africa, said: “It’s not the right move, given the understaffing and its resultant impact on healthcare service provision.

“Besides, it’s not a good return on investment, given the fact that training a health worker is a costly venture and most health workers are educated using public funds – and at the end of the day the citizens who meet the costs of this education do not benefit from their services.”

Uganda continues to face a severe shortage of critical health workers, according to the health ministry. The national health system performs poorly and staff encounter challenges with accommodation and transport, not to mention months without pay.

On top of that, health facilities lack adequate medicines and proper equipment. Just 69% of health posts are filled (pdf) according to figures for 2015. In 2013, the doctor-to-patient ratio was estimated at 1:24,725, with a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:11,000. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends one physician per 1,000 people.

Although the Institute of Public Policy Research Uganda, a thinktank, sued the government in 2014 to stop the loss of 263 health workers to Trinidad and Tobago, that court case is still pending, and some 3,000 medics left the country between March and June this year alone, according to estimates from activists.

The brain drain of health workers from east Africa is caused by local private recruitment agencies that broker deals mainly with Arab countries – arrangements it is difficult to prevent.

“As a government, we can’t stop health workers from going to work abroad if they want to. Since we have free movement of labour in Uganda, there is no reason as to why we can stop them from going,” said health minister Sarah Achieng Opendi.

“We also can’t absorb all [these workers] in our health government system because of the wage bill and [limits on staff levels]. We tried to put a system to bond health worker students who complete studies on government sponsorship. But it doesn’t work – they took us to court. The case is still pending.”

Every year, at least 320 medical students graduate from Ugandan universities, more than in any east African nation. But public hospitals are very short staffed.

“Uganda’s health worker crisis is caused by multiple factors. The government refuses to provide adequate pay, health workers are not deployed to the areas where they are most needed, and many lack the tools and support to do their jobs effectively,” said Russell.

The medical brain drain is not restricted to Uganda – but common across sub-Saharan Africa. A 2011 study found, for example, that 77% of physicians who had trained in Liberia were working in the US.

Meanwhile, HIV activists have criticised the labour ministry for allowing recruitment agencies to insist that applicants undergo an HIV test, which is against Ugandan law on the workplace.

“Mandatory HIV testing deprives someone of their rights to privacy and dignity, and also those taken through the test and found HIV positive are denied the opportunity to work. Despite the fact that they meet the qualifications, their right to equal opportunity is denied,” said Dorah Kiconco, of the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV–Aids. “This is wrong on all fronts. HIV does not make someone incapable of doing what they can do.”