Equal opportunity employment rules and Title IX for educational institutions have led to an increase in the number of female surgeons practicing medicine in the United States. Most people don’t think twice about the sex of the person performing their operation. Any surgeon with an appropriate specialization and upcoming availability can potentially perform the procedure that you require.
However, patients should consider the statistical risk that comes with undergoing an invasive medical procedure. One of the most surprising risk factors that people frequently fail to account for is the possibility of sexism affecting the care that they receive. For female patients, in particular, the sex of the surgeon can be critical to obtaining the best outcome.
Male surgeons are more likely to fail female patients
You might assume that surgeons of both sexes have roughly the same success rates and fatality rates on patients of both sexes, but that isn’t actually what research shows. Female surgeons overall seem to produce better outcomes for their patients.
A male patient undergoing an operation performed by a female surgeon is 13% less likely to die and 6% less likely to end up readmitted to the hospital than they would be if they had the same procedure performed by a male surgeon. For female patients, the difference in the standard of care is even bigger.
A woman who undergoes a surgery performed by a male surgeon is 32% more likely to die than she would be if a female surgeon performed the procedure. She also has a 16% higher chance of complications and an 11% greater risk of readmission to the hospital.
Why is there a sex difference in surgery?
Perhaps because surgery has long been a man’s field, the female surgeons who make it in this area of medicine may be the very best. They likely feel like they have to outperform their male peers in every area, which means that they will pay closer attention to detail during each procedure.
Beyond that, there is a noteworthy bias toward the male anatomy in most medical schools, as many historical medical texts and even medical studies tend to focus more on the male anatomy than the female. Female doctors may make a point of educating themselves about those differences, while male doctors may not see the need to do so.
Whatever the cause, female patients who have surgeries performed by male doctors are far more likely to have unfortunate outcomes. Pursuing a medical malpractice claim if you suspect sexism lead to a poor outcome for you or a family member could lead to financial justice and better protection for other patients treated by the same surgeon in the future.