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Women die more when operated on by male surgeon, study finds

MEDICINE – When a man operates on a patient, she would have about 30% more risk of dying compared to a male patient. The study was carried out on more than one million transactions carried out in Canada between 2007 and 2019.

Unexpected sexism with very serious consequences. Is there a difference in treatment depending on whether your surgeon is a man or a woman? If you are a patient, the answer unfortunately seems to be positive. This is what a team of Canadian researchers is demonstrating.

In their study, we learn that a woman has a 32% increased risk – compared to the opposite sex – of dying when she is operated on by a male surgeon. Female patients are also 15% more likely than men to suffer from complications after the operation.

For each of the acts analyzed, three elements were taken into account: the sex of the patient, that of the doctor as well as the consequences observed after going to the operating room (death, longer hospitalization, etc.).

“Deeply rooted stereotypes”

Based on the analysis of approximately 1.3 million operations and nearly 3,000 doctors, the study was published last December, in the medical journal of Journal of the American Medical Association. Note that the medical acts taken into account all took place in the Canadian region of Ontario, between 2007 and 2019.

Conversely, when the operation is led by a woman, patients have “generally better postoperative consequences”, explains Dr. Angela Jerath, co-author of the study at Guardian. For its author, an explanation of the finding by a difference in training is irrelevant.

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“Both sexes follow exactly the same processes”, she explains. The latter believes that this can be explained by “implicit sexist prejudices, attitudes, deeply rooted stereotypes”.

This Canadian study is the first of its kind to shed light on possible sexism in surgical care.

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