Donated Book – Now available at Samuels Public Library
Front Royal Women's Resource Center and Royal Oak Bookshop co-sponsor donations to Samuels Public Library that are by or about women. Nan Hathaway, Book Donation Sponsor & Coordinator, chooses our books each year. Thank you Nan! We highlight one of these books every third week each month. Our 2019 Book Reviews and Commentaries are provided by JoEllen McNeal. Thank you JoEllen!
March 2019 Book Review
By Maya Dusenbery
In Doing Harm, Dusenbery explores the deep, systemic problems that underlie women’s experiences of feeling dismissed by the medical system. Women have been discharged from the emergency room mid-heart attack with a prescription for anti-anxiety meds, while others with autoimmune diseases have been labeled “chronic complainers” for years before being properly diagnosed. Women have “contested” illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia that, dogged by psychosomatic suspicions, have yet to be fully accepted as “real” diseases by the whole of the medical profession.
An eye-opening read for patients and health care providers alike, Doing Harm reveals how women suffer because the medical community knows relatively less about their disease and bodies and too often doesn’t trust women’s reports of their symptoms. The research community has neglected conditions that disproportionately affect women and paid little attention to biological differences between the sexes in everything from drug metabolism to the disease factors – even the symptoms of a heart attack. Heart attacks, long considered a “man’s disease,” are the number one cause of death for women, even greater than cancer. Even though women make up more than three-quarters of those with autoimmune disease (it is estimated that as many as 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases and rates are on the rise), there is little awareness of it, both in the public and within the American medical system. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), it takes nearly four years and four doctors, on average, before a patient is properly diagnosed. Women also make up about two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease, which experts now consider the third leading cause of death (after heart attacks and cancer) , though it receives only a fraction of the research dollars.
Apart from our reproductive health concerns, medicine pays little attention to potential differences between men and women, instead taking a one-size-fits-all approach to clinical research and practice. For decades, that one-size was specifically a seventy-kilogram white man. Women of childbearing age were largely excluded from clinical research, particularly drug studies, altogether.
Despite regulations in the early nineties that required women and racial minorities to be included in research, researchers still don’t routinely analyze and report such differences.
To quote one reviewer’s statement, “Maya’s Dusenbery’s exhaustively researched book is equal parts infuriating and energizing. No woman will see the medical establishment and- perhaps even more profound – her own body the same way after reading it. In a just world, it (this book) would be required reading in medical schools from this day forward.” Full of women’s personal journeys though the health care system, this book is a must-read for women as well.
Maya Dusenbery is a writer and editor of the ward-winning site Feministing.com. She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist for Pacific Standard magazine. Before becoming a journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health.