Thursday Born

The everyday life of a medical student (who was born on a Thursday).

Sexism in choosing a doctor: a problem or no?

with 4 comments

I recently learned that some people do not believe in patients being able to pick their doctors. At least, I’m going assume that’s the overall view, because where do you draw the line?

I have always preferred having a female doctor. Some people may argue that I am somehow sexualizing the patient physical, but I have had this preference since I was child. I had no choice in my pediatrician, but I was much happier when I had a woman than when I had a man. Now, as a young adult, I will consciously choose a female doctor for any sort of physical; whether it’s just for a check up, or for a gynecology appointment.

I feel this is obvious, but maybe I should say it anyway: I only really care when it comes to more primary care situations. I couldn’t care less beyond those settings. If I have an emergency or I need surgery, my doctor can be as different from me as possible, so long as they’re competent.

So I thought this was all good and well, until I encountered an argument online (in an ob/gyn resident forum) where the majority of people were against women choosing female doctors. They thought it was sexist and akin to someone choosing a doctor based on race, which would be racist and therefore wrong. I was incredibly taken aback by the force behind these assertions. I had no idea this was an issue, let alone such a heated one.

Honestly, I feel that if a patient has the freedom to choose, then they may choose whichever doctor they want for whatever reason is important to them. If they do not have a choice and they are unhappy with their doctor, then they must either accept the situation, wait till they have options, or leave and accept that they will then not get the care that they want (but what if they need the care? Hm. Should a doctor be forced upon them?).

I am having trouble properly articulating why it is somehow more okay in my mind to pick a doctor based on criteria that it is generally unacceptable to use (in fact, I feel like the only time it is socially acceptable for us to be picky is in the gender of our romantic partners, and to some extent, the age). I think I feel like it’s just too crucial of an area to start arguing about being politically correct. Should we force patients to be seen by doctors they don’t want when there’s the wiggle room to let them choose? Trust is such an important component of the doctor-patient relationship, and if the patient doesn’t trust their doctor, or even simply isn’t comfortable with their doctor, so much can be lost.

Ideally, people wouldn’t care what age, sex, race, religion, etc their doctor is, but they do, and until they don’t, why not give in when we can? I don’t feel that the hospital or the doctor’s office is the place to fight this battle quite so strongly. I definitely am all for talking patients through their concerns and trying to convince them that maybe this black doctor is amazing or that this male ob/gyn is the best ob/gyn ever, but I don’t think I agree with forcing the issue unless it’s critical to the patient’s immediate health.


Written by Aba

December 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

Posted in Health Issues

4 Responses

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  1. Having not read the argument explicitly, I’m going to risk making myself look like an idiot. It seems to me that choosing your doctor is not unlike choosing a contractor for your house. You look around, find someone you trust and who is competent, then you go with that one. (Mind you, I’m speaking in terms of primary care physicians, not emergency room doctors or specialists).

    For me, being comfortable with my doctor is key. If I don’t feel like he/she is taking me seriously, or taking time out to explain complicated information to me, I’m done. John and I have gone through a couple of doctors before we found one (male!) who we are both comfortable with. Having said that, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable going to a male gynecologist. That’s not to say that men cannot be excellent gynecologists–I’m sure they can. It’s just my personal preference to have another lady look at my lady parts.

    I guess I at once understand and don’t understand the argument. Yes, I think sexism is a real problem. You can’t be pissed off when you land a male teacher if you prefer females, or if you have a woman cab driver. Those are situations that you just sort of live with and fall into. However, medical care is a very important service that WE SOLICIT. There are plenty of primary care physicians covered under HMOs, specifically to give patients options. I guess my logic is that I pay for medical care. When I feel sick, I haul myself out of bed and drive myself to a doctor’s office to get checked out. There are no laws that dictate who I can and cannot see. Since I’m paying good money for medical care, I have every right to be picky about who I trust my health to.


    December 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    • Your logic is same as mine and I fully agree with you, so if this post made you look like an idiot, then mine makes me look like one too. 🙂 Your response was well-written, btw. I think you summed up how I feel about this far more eloquently than I was able to.


      December 25, 2009 at 7:16 pm

  2. Tend to agree with Ash. Being comfortable with your doctor matters too much to let “This is sexist” idiocies get in the way, although of course I haven’t seen the discussion either.


    December 3, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    • You guys are having pretty much the same reaction I had to the actual discussion. I’d link it but… something feels wrong about linking to something I disagree with when it’s not going to add anything but fuel to the fire.


      December 25, 2009 at 7:13 pm

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