The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims

By Stephen L. Fielding | Go to book overview
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7
GENDER AND TELLING THE STORY

In Chapter 2 we discussed the structural aspects of gender that play a role in the practice of medicine. Although the percentage of women in medical school has been rising over the last twenty years, to 43 percent today, women hold different positions than men in medicine. 1 Women are more heavily represented in primary medical care; extremely few are found in the more specialized medical areas, and women do not occupy many positions of high status and influence within academic medicine. Furthermore, female physicians spend more time with their families, since they continue to be the primary caregivers, and they work parttime or interrupt their careers as a result.

However, as I argued in Chapter 2, professional socialization overrides gender socialization. Professional socialization takes place during medical training where men not only design the curriculum but define medicine's worldview--the aggressive treatment of disease focused on the body as machine. Medicine is male gendered. For example, the reductionist focus on disease as an isolated cause-and-effect relationship has evolved as male because it tends to exclude nonmedical factors such as humanism. It is not so much patients who are treated as disease. The notion of using a positivist, medical science to discover these relationships, as well as aggressive treatment and the ultimate conquering of disease, implies a militaristic perspective--all traditional male qualities. In order to survive professionally, women have to play the men's game,

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