by Mark Angelides
According to a respected medical Doctor, understanding transgender issues is as important as knowing how to resuscitate a cardiac patient. And also that doctors in training should be spending as much time learning how to conduct prostate exams on transgendered women and pap smears on transgendered men as they do on “cis-gendered folk. Just to clarify, doctors should be given complete retraining on how to deal with issues that arise from elective surgeries.
In a New York Times article, Dr. Helen Ouyang, went all out explaining that transgendered people receive an incredible amount of bias when they visit hospitals. One example given is that sometimes doctors let out a “surprised gasp” when the patient they are examining turns out not to have the “correct” sexual organs. Another being, that sometimes doctors are left confused by the fact that the patients intake form does not match their physical sex.
So to counteract this “shocking element of bias”, she has decided that the entire medical profession needs to be retrained. I have a slightly more revolutionary solution to this problem…put another box on the form. Sure, it would require the reprinting of thousands of pieces of paper (which is of course bad for the environment), but when weighed against the retraining of every medical person in the world, and the complete overhaul of the medical training practices in every nation on earth, I think my solution is a little better (if not as environmentally friendly…perhaps we could use recycled paper?).
Dr. Ouyang bases her position on a study carried out into how transgendered people are treated by medical professionals (she may of course be basing it on more than the study, but she doesn’t mention other sources, so we can assume this is the case). It is of course great that studies are being carried out into how the medical profession treat people (especially those that have not so common needs), but the study is not actually based on measurable facts, it is based on perception.
The first table is titled: Experience of Discrimination and Substandard Care. The questions cover aspects such as “treated me differently” and “provided worse care”. These are not objective measurements; they are based on the responder’s perception. How do they know that the care was worse than everyone else? How do they know that they were treated differently?
When doctors start calling for substantial changes in the medical profession (which already undergoes almost constant refining) based on subjective responses, it is wrong. And for the New York Times to give such a delusional view column space is irresponsible. When people read the NYT, they have an assumption that the information put across is based on something. This study (while very important for understanding the “perceptions of patients”) is not evidence based. The suggestion that the medical profession needs an overhaul is not a ridiculous one, but that the overhaul should be based on patient’s perceptions is ridiculous. As a doctor, she should know better.
by Mark Angelides