Doesn’t medical research neglect women?
The belief that sexism has led to a focus on men’s health at the expense of women’s has led both the federal government and private industry to focus on women’s health at the expense of men’s. Thus the government has recently established an Office of Research on Women’s Health but no Office of Research on Men’s Health.37 It has also established an Office of Minority Health that defines women as a minority,38 but no Office of Minority Health that defines men as a minority (due to only men dying at a younger age from all fifteen of the major causes of death). The belief in women’s neglect has led private hospitals and health-care companies to start women’s healthcare centers but almost no men’s health-care centers.39 So let’s look at the myths versus the realities.
Overall Myth. Less money and attention are given to female health than male health.
Supporting Myth #/. “Less than 20 percent of the research budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spent on women’s health."40
Fact No governmental agency focusing on health spends as much on men’s health as on women’s health. The reason less than 20 percent of the research budget of the NIH is spent on women’s health is because 85 percent of the research budget is spent on nowgender – specific health issues (or basic science); 10 percent is spent on
women’s health; 5 percent is spent on men’s health. (This is the analysis of the NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s I lealth.41)
Supporting Myth 42. Sexism is the reason that more studies have been done on men in almost all areas of medical research.
Fact. In a search of more than three thousand medical journals listed in Index Medicus, twenty-three articles were written on women’s health for each one written on men’s.42
Fact/Perspective. With that larger picture in mind, it is true new products and potentially dangerous drugs were often tested on prisoners. But this is because we care less about prisoners; and they were often tried on men because we care less about men. Similarly, sulfa drugs, LSD, and other experimental research was often conducted by making guinea pigs of military men. Did the men in the military get anything in return? Yes. Time off from time which only men were required to serve. In brief, we do more research on men in prison, men in the military, and men in general than we do on women for the same reason we do more research on rats than we do on humans.
Supporting Myth 43. if diseases were killing men as fast as breast cancer is killing women, men would get the funding to solve the problem.
Fact. A woman is 14 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than a man is from prostate cancer,45 yet funding for breast cancer research is 660 percent greater than funding for prostate cancer research 44 The death-to-funding ratio is 47 to 1 in women’s favor.
Fact. The death rate for prostate cancer has grown at almost twice the rate of breast cancer in the last five years.45
Fact. Black men in the United States have the highest incidence in the world of cancer of the prostate/*6
Supporting Myth 44. Virtually all of women’s health has been neglected – from ovarian cancer to menopause. The neglect comes in both research and treatment.
Fact. There is a neglect in research for women’s health such as ovarian cancer and menopause that is now being remedied by the new Office of Research on Women s Health of the NIH; there salso a neglect in research in the following seventeen areas of men’s health that is not being adequately remedied by anyone:
► A men’s birth control pill
► Posttraumatic stress syndrome
► Circumcision as a possible trauma-producing experience
► The male midlife crisis
► The causes of male violence
► Criminal recidivism
► Steroid abuse
► Color blindness
► Testicular cancer
► Prostate cancer
► Hearing loss over age 30
► Sexual impotence
► Nonspecific urethritis
► Epididymitis (a disease of the tubes that transmit sperm)
► Klinefelters disease, ALD, and other male-only inherited diseases
Fact. Men are more likely to suffer from mental illness; women are almost twice as likely to be treated for mental illness.47
Yes, there is a need for more research on women’s health – as there is a need for more basic research and more research on men’s health. Yet all of these needs for specific research must not be dictated so much by gender politics that the basic research (DNA, cellular, transplant, etc.) gets neglected – research which can help both sexes live longer. So how can we do it all? We can start by funding medical researchers more than missile researchers.
Supporting Myth #5. Women are now as vulnerable as men to death from heart attacks, but sexism is why only men have been studied.
First, the vulnerability to death from heart attacks. . .
Fact. Compared to other diseases, heart attacks have now become the number one killer of women. But men are still far more vulnerable to death from heart attacks than women: before the age of 65, men still die from heart attacks at a ratio of almost 3 to 1 vis-й-vis women.48 Even after the age of 85, men’s death rate is still slightly higher.49
Put another way, almost three quarters of women who die of heart attacks are 75 or older’50 By this time, the average man has been dead for three years.4
Second, concerning the cause сёЧЫе of medical sexism – that only men had been studied related to the effects of aspirin on heart attacks. . .
Fact. Yes, there was a study on only male physicians on the effects of aspirin on heart attacks ‘2 And there was a simultaneous study conducted only on female nurses (also on the effects of aspirin on heart attacks).’5 The press touted only the male study as sexism. Yet the women s study was longer in duration and there were four women studied for each man.4
Would more research on why men die of heart disease so much earlier serve any real purpose? Yes. For example, when men with heart attacks were randomly put into two groups, one group experiencing group therapy, the other group not, the men in therapy reversed coronary artery blockage; the men not in therapy experienced an increase." If heart attacks are induced by stress and reduced by stress control, we need to know more about the types of stress that induce it and the types of therapy that reduce it The answers will help both sexes.
Nevertheless, one-sex studies – whether with the intent of preventing heart attacks or preventing spouse abuse – should be rare. The rule of thumb for funding a one-sex study should be to requireproo/that the other sex doesn’t need studying rather than accepting the assumption that the other sex doesn’t need studying.
Supporting Myth #6 Sexism is the reason men with heart attack symptoms are more likely to receive the most advanced tests and most effective operations: coronary bypass and angioplasty.
Fact. Coronary bypass operations are more than twice as likely to lead to death for women than for men." Why? In part, because women as a group have smaller coronary arteries which are more likely to dose after the operation.57 And in part because almost three quarters of women who have heart disease are over 75 and are also much more likely to have-cancer of the breast or ocher complications that make the demands of surgery far more likely to lead to death.58 As a result, a woman is more likely than a 60-year-old man to refuse a coronary bypass or angioplasty operation. Which is why she is also less likely to ask for a costly’ and somewhat demanding diagnostic test.
The policy of informed consent means the final decision is not the doctor’s, but the patient’s – and these are the circumstances the patient
considers that lead to fewer tests and less surgery. To call the female patient’s decision sexism is to call her stupid for saving her own life.
Fact When age and other complicating factors (e g., diabetes, hypertension, obesity) are controlled for, there is no difference between the treatment of men versus women with heart attacks 39
In brief, medical research has been perhaps the single biggest contributor to women’s life span increasing almost SO percent since 1920. Medical research was responsible for a female pill (but no male pill), fewer female deaths in childbirth, and research on the diseases women once died of in equal numbers to men (ТВ, diphtheria, polio). It is ironic that feminists are calling it sexism against women when it is women’s lives that have gone from one year longer than men’s to seven years longer than mens. What would feminists be calling the medical community if men lived longer? Or if women died at a younger age of every one of the fifteen major causes of death?