Human beings have continually been defined by their gender and culture within the society where they live or work. Although being uncontrollable traits in the life of each individual, gender and culture have resulted in the discrimination of individuals against each other and have ensured that some of them have a different view of other people or treat them differently. Such issues continue to exist in the medical sector and have come to be known as cultural pluralism in the context of sexism in medical ethics. Over time, the medical sector has set various norms that can be viewed as discriminatory regarding culture and gender. These norms are still existent in the profession and affect all the stakeholders of the sector irrespective of whether they are patients or medical practitioners. Such tendencies are unfair and degrading as well as lead to the slowdown in the development of the medical profession, delivery of treatment, and establishment of correct diagnoses to patients.
The unfairness and discrimination towards gender in the medical profession have always been the issue in the past and modern medicine. Men are usually thought of as the desired gender for doctor positions, while women are more preferred for the nursing ones (Gordon, n.d.). It is an unfortunate fact, but socially, women are considered less competent than men are. This idea is supported by the historical treatment of women and their fight for equality and justice. Stereotypes created by men have no biological or social evidence because women are absolutely as competent and skillful as men are (Rhodes, Francis, & Silvers, 2008). Nevertheless, the public still expects doctors to be men, so women in the profession are left to take lower positions, traditionally nursing ones (Bhatt, 2017). According to Hinman (2013), the stereotype towards women has been enrooted in human society for a long time; therefore, women are often regarded “as less capable than men…” (p. 299). Due to the historical nature of such a treatment, discrimination and preconceptions continue.
Another type of gender discrimination, which can be seen in the medical sphere, is that of men in the nursing position. Over the years, women have been the ones occupying the role of the nurse, taking care of the patients, and speaking with the doctors to find the correct course of treatment (Boylan, 2013). In the modern day, men pursue the position of a nurse because it is as respected and demanded as any other medical occupation. The attention to detail and the organization of professional approach have displayed a significant skill possessed by males in relation to their duties (Tomlinson, 2012). Men in nursing are a part of a similar stereotype and preconception that can be seen towards women as doctors, because historically, women were the ones providing immediate care to patients. Doctors would usually prescribe the treatment, while administering it to the patient would be the responsibility of nurses. Nowadays, the roles have shifted, and it is acceptable for men to take the position of a person who will make sure of the proper and timely delivery of the prescribed treatment.
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There has also been some form of underrepresentation of women when it comes to active leadership roles in medicine. Men and women start their medical careers at the same pace, but the rate of advancement is different. The careers of men usually advance at a faster pace than those of women. This fact has been attributed to a bias that also makes women underrepresented in the academic and professional careers in medicine. According to a study by Carnes et al. (2015), 32% of associate professors in various medical schools are women, only 20% are full professors, 14% are departmental heads, and 11% are deans. Their male counterparts hold the rest of the seats. This bias has been explained by the lack of awareness of the gender roles as well as absence of role models that women could look up to. Moreover, women in such fields face various forms of discrimination such as sexual harassment, which cause their careers grow at a slower pace than those of men. Additionally, people have perceived women as lacking the traits of being strong, independent, and logical throughout the decision-making process. This attitude has also resulted in the discrimination observed.
Gender also plays a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Commonly, men are taken more seriously than women with their emotional nature (Sugarman & Sulmasy, 2010). It is a sad fact, but women are constantly wrongfully accused of being more emotional and sensitive in comparison to men; thus, their diagnosis is inaccurate due to the thought up symptoms. Physical problems with women’s health are often considered psychiatric, and references are made to the unstable nature of their mind and mood changes; women even “have symptoms of heart disease misdiagnosed as ‘stress’…” (Koven, 2013). This claim is in no way supported by any scientific evidence, and it is completely the result of men’s discrimination and stereotypical attitude towards women.
Moreover, medical practitioners view women as hysterical and emotional patients, which means that in most cases, women are considered to exaggerate their feelings. Therefore, when women raise alarm about certain issues or feel different during the course of the treatment, most medical practitioners disregard their claims. Due to such kind of perceived exaggeration by the female patients, physicians redirect them to psychiatrists for ‘help’. Here, women are provided with the medication that they do not even need, hence exposing them to the side effects of such treatment. As a result, sexism in the medical sector has resulted into treating conditions that are inexistent instead of providing treatment based on what female patients are feeling. This attitude has ensured that women continue ailing since they are not treated for their conditions and that the health outcomes set by the medical practitioners are not reached.
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During the research, cultural pluralism in the medical sector has also been analyzed. Medicine is a field that highly relies on investigations to make strides towards finding cures for a variety of conditions and to understand ways in which diseases manifest themselves and the best means of curing them. Individuals are used as a part of the research to provide a deeper understanding of the concept under examination. Previously, women were not involved in any clinical trials. This exclusion has influenced the assessment of side effects that various drugs have on women. Since only men were included in clinical trials, any medicine used on them and found to work was also provided to women irrespective of any side effects that it might have on them. It is only recently that researchers began involve women in clinical trials.
Nevertheless, there are several possible solutions that can enhance the changes but rather slowly. One of them is to set a necessary quota of women who can be hired for the positions dominated by men and vice versa. Since social stereotypes are difficult to eradicate, the change must begin within the industry. Staff members of both genders could receive evaluation forms where they would rate their relations with other staff, management, and the public. In case there is discrimination from the staff members, any activity of such kind must be penalized. If medical professionals feel stereotyped by patients or visitors, each particular individual with a prejudiced view could receive a pamphlet that would describe the role of the hospital staff and their duties. This will ensure that the public is aware of the job difficulties, discrimination, and the level of skill that each staff member possesses to perform their duties. Moreover, various regulations can be set up to ensure that women are provided opportunities and chances equal to their male counterparts. This measure mainly solves inclusion issues in cases of the clinical testing, allowing women to participate in all clinical tests.
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Sexism and cultural pluralism in medicine can be seen in the selection of the staff and the treatment of patients. On the one hand, women are considered unreliable for doctoral positions but suitable for the nursing ones, while on the other hand, men are usually seen as doctors but incompetent and degraded in nursing positions. These views have been wrongfully established by historical stereotypes, proving once again the inappropriate judgment of facts. Consequently, various measures need to be implemented to ensure that issues revolving around discrimination in the health sector are dealt with. Such solution would lead to positive health outcomes within the population by providing equal chances for both men and women.
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