There seems to be two models of feminism:
- Women and men are constitutionally identical (in everything but size and appearance), and any observed differences are entirely patterned by social influences.
- Differences between men and women are more than just anatomy and physiology, and women bring useful and unique attributes to society.
I am inclined to the second opinion. It is already known that female doctors are more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, provide more preventative advice, and are better listeners than male doctors. Well they also seem to save more lives, according to a brilliant study from Yasuke Tsugawa and colleagues. They compared outcomes from Medicare beneficiaries treated by general internists in hospital. These were really sick patients with a death rate of over 11%. The patients treated by female doctors had a risk-adjusted difference in mortality of nearly 0.5% and also lower risk of readmission. Findings were similar if the analysis was restricted to patients treated by ‘hospitalists’ – a general physician on call for emergencies. Patients hospitalised for an emergency medical condition are less likely to select their physician than patients who are admitted electively, and severity and condition profiles were well balanced between male and female physicians. The authors claim that this means their study was ‘quasi-randomised’. The results are congruent with other studies; across many industries it has been shown that men, compared to women, are “less deliberate in their approach to solving complex problems.”
In ‘My Fair Lady’ Henry Higgins sings “Why can’t a women by more like a man?” In the context of clinical care it seems that the song should go “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?”
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director
- Tsugawa Y, Jena AB, Figueroa JF, et al. Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians. JAMA Intern Med. 2016.