The Fight Against Medical Misogyny and Racial Bias: A Call for Change

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the systemic biases that exist within healthcare systems both in the UK and further afield. Recent media attention has focused on how biases rooted in misogyny and racial discrimination, have been routinely putting patients at risk.

At the present time, the majority of our cases arise from issues relating to the care and treatment that women have received in the gynaecology and obstetrics units at Derby Trust. In many instances Claimants have highlighted that they did not feel listened to, their concerns were dismissed, and they were not fully informed about the treatments that they went on to have.

Dismissed as Hysterical: Women Fighting Back

Historically, women’s health concerns have often been dismissed as “hysterical,” a term that was once used as a catch-all diagnosis for women presenting with a range of symptoms. This dismissal of women’s health concerns has led to late and incorrect diagnoses, exacerbated symptoms, and even outright dismissal.

Today, women are fighting back against this systemic bias. They are sharing their experiences of being disbelieved, patronised, and gaslit in medical settings. These stories are powerful accounts of what happens when our public services do not take women’s concerns seriously.

Personal Stories of Dismissal

A recent BBC article shared a nurse named Heidi Metcalf’s harrowing experience during her second birth. A male obstetrician, whom she had never met before, “ripped the placenta” out of her body without any warning or consent. This intervention was necessary due to potentially fatal bleeding, but the lack of communication and consent left her feeling violated.

Nadiah Akbar, another woman faced medical gaslighting. She was told by a doctor that her extreme fatigue was due to the “stress” of being a busy mother. Later tests revealed that she had thyroid cancer. After migrating to Australia from Singapore and being in remission, she experienced crippling pain that was misdiagnosed as “depression” or being “overtired.” She had to pay for two costly MRI scans out of pocket to be taken seriously.

Misogyny and Racial Bias: A Warning from NHS England’s Safety Chief

Dr. Henrietta Hughes, the patient safety commissioner in England, back in February 2024, warned that deeply ingrained medical misogyny and racial biases are routinely putting people in need of treatment at risk in a Guardian article. She was appointed in 2022 in response to a series of scandals in women’s health.

Dr. Hughes also outlined a “huge landscape” of biases in need of levelling, citing examples ranging from neonatal assessment tools and pulse oximeters that work less well for darker skin tones to heart valves, mesh implants, and replacement hip joints that were not designed with female patients in mind.

The Gender Health Gap: Real Stories

The Fawcett Society, in partnership with Benenden Health, published “The Gender Health Gap: Our Stories,” which features six real-life stories of women’s experiences in the health system and the impact on work and life. These stories further highlight the sexism and misogyny in the health system that is creating poor health outcomes for women.

The data from Benenden Health shows that nearly two-thirds (60%) of women in the UK believe their health issues are not taken seriously, and more than half (57%) of women have had a negative experience with a healthcare professional.


The fight against medical misogyny and racial bias is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and action. It is time for change. The current system doesn’t work for anyone: women are being let down and the cost to business is enormous. We must strive to build a system that works better for women, in order to begin closing the Gender Health Gap.

Our clinical negligence team has a wealth of experience in dealing with a variety of clinical negligence claims. If you think that you, or a loved one, may have been affected by negligent medical care, you are welcome to contact Karen Reynolds, Siobhan Genever, Lauren Green, Sonya Friend or Ibrahim Mahmood to discuss how we can help and support you.

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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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