Gender Gaslighting in Medicine: A Call for Patient Advocacy

By Lisa McPhee, Open Arms Content Writer | October 16, 2023

woman's hand on face

In today’s rapidly advancing world, we often assume that progress in medicine corresponds with progress in societal attitudes. However, a concerning issue persists within healthcare: gender gaslighting. This term refers to the dismissal or depreciation of a patient’s symptoms, based on their gender. This effects particularly women, and other marginalized genders. It’s a persistent problem that affects countless individuals, hindering accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatments. This blog post sheds light on the concept of gender gaslighting in medicine and emphasizes the importance of patient advocacy in addressing this issue.

Understanding Gender Gaslighting

Gender gaslighting in medicine occurs when healthcare professionals downplay or ignore symptoms reported by patients, especially women, attributing them to emotional distress or exaggeration. Consequently, legitimate health concerns are dismissed, leading to delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatments, and unnecessary suffering.

The Impact on Patients:

The consequences of gender gaslighting are profound. Patients, especially women, often find their pain trivialized, leading to frustration, anxiety, and lack of trust in healthcare providers. Misdiagnosis can result in prolonged suffering and worsened conditions, impacting not only physical health but also mental well-being.

The Role of Patient Advocacy:

Patient advocacy plays a crucial role in combating gender gaslighting. Advocacy organizations and individuals alike can raise awareness about this issue, urging healthcare professionals to recognize and address their biases.  By amplifying patient voices and sharing personal experiences, advocacy efforts can challenge the status quo and foster a more empathetic healthcare environment.

Breaking the Silence:

One of the most powerful tools against gender gaslighting is speaking out. Patients are encouraged to share their stories, exposing realities of their experiences in healthcare settings. Social media platforms, support groups, and blogs provide spaces for individuals to connect, validate and discuss each other’s experiences. The more people share, the harder it becomes to ignore the prevalence of gender gaslighting in medicine.

Educating Healthcare Professionals:

Educating healthcare professionals is essential in eradicating gender gaslighting. Continuing educations programs and medical schools must integrate gender sensitivity training, emphasizing the importance of listening to patients without biases. By addressing this issue at its roots, future generations of doctors can provide more equitable and respectful care.

Policy Changes and Legal Protections:

Policy changes are vital in ensuring that gender gaslighting is taken seriously within the medical community. Laws and regulations should be enacted to penalize healthcare professionals who engage in such behavior. Legal protections can empower patients, assuring them that their concerns will be heard and respected, regardless of their gender.


Gender gaslighting in medicine is a startling problem that demands immediate attention. By embracing patient advocacy, breaking the silence, educating healthcare professionals, and advocating for policy changes, we can work towards a healthcare system where every patient is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender. It’s time to challenge the stereotypes, biases and discrimination that hinder the delivery of quality health care to all.


  1. Vox: “Women suffer needless pain because almost everything is designed for men”
  2. Harvard Health Publishing: “Women and Pain: Disparities in Experience and Treatment”
  3. Medical News Today: “Gender Bias in Medical Diagnosis”

How can Open Arms Advocacy Help?

We advocate for a wide array of patient issues from emergency room care, senior care, women’s health, mental health, and acute care to medical fatalities. We help patients get a second opinion, find a physician, place a complaint, or access medical documents. Open Arms also helps families of patients with guidance, support, and resources to get the answers they require.

If you need a patient advocate, please contact us at or fill out our intake form.