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Despite consistent advancements in medicine and healthcare, many women continue to face challenges when seeking care and treatment in Australia.

It’s important to remember that historically, medical research centred men as the default patient and women as secondary. Women were often dismissed as ‘hysterical’, and some doctors once even believed that a woman could be ‘cured’ of her ‘hysteria’ by removing her uterus.

While we’ve come a long way since these times, the flow-on effects of devaluing and not understanding women’s pain persist in the form of ‘medical gender bias’ by some practitioners. Medical gender bias can lead to a denial of pain and, therefore, a lack of pain relief and associated treatment for women.

A recent study by the Victorian Government found that one in three women had experienced insensitive and disrespectful practitioners who left them feeling dismissed and unheard.

More work needs to be done in taking girls' and women’s pain seriously, listening to their experiences of our healthcare system, and responding to these findings with tangible and effective change.

Submissions open for Inquiry into Women’s Pain

That’s why the Victorian Government Department of Health has launched an Inquiry into Women’s Pain to investigate the obstacles women face in accessing medical services and receiving pain treatment.

The Department of Health has made the important first step of recognising that chronic pain impacts a higher proportion of girls and women than men worldwide. However, women are less likely to receive treatment, often due to medical gender bias.

“This won’t be a mic drop moment for the majority of Victoria’s population because every woman has either experienced it for herself or knows someone who has. But now we have the evidence to prove it,” said Premier Jacinta Allan.

The Inquiry is open for all Victorian girls and women over 12 years of age with living or lived experience of pain to share their experiences to improve the medical system.

Women are encouraged to make submissions until 31 July 2024 and highlight to the Department of Health opportunities to improve the health system, the barriers they face in accessing care, and how the gender gaps in treating pain among all members of society can be bridged.

Jane’s story

In 2022, Jane underwent a gynaecological procedure. Following this procedure, during her hospital stay, she was experiencing severe abdominal pain and was given strong pain medications. The hospital did not investigate the cause of this severe pain.

She was discharged a week later despite complaining of extreme pain and having a fever and rash at the site of her procedure.

A few days later, she returned to the hospital for this severe pain. The hospital noted her pain and gave more pain medication but did not check her wound or investigate the reason for her pain.

Another few days later, Jane went to the Emergency Department for continued pain and suspected infection in her wound. The hospital admitted her and investigated the cause of her pain.

It was found that Jane had an infection in her blood (sepsis) and flesh-eating bacteria in her wound (necrotising fasciitis).

Jane was rushed to surgery to treat her infected wound. She underwent multiple surgeries and then daily wound treatment, meaning she was unable to care for her young children at home.

Had her pain symptoms been investigated sooner, with a simple blood test or check of her wound, her infection would have been treated sooner, without the need for surgery and daily wound treatment. She would have been able to enjoy her life without constant pain.

Jane’s pain was consistently disregarded, and she was denied the hospital’s resources to look into what was causing her pain and treat it quickly.

Sadly, Jane is not the only woman to have her concerns repeatedly overlooked or ignored.

This Inquiry into Women’s Pain is an opportunity for people like Jane to tell their stories in the hopes of bringing systemic change to our healthcare system.

Support available

If you or your loved one has experienced inappropriate pain treatment and suffered a poor outcome because of this, you may be entitled to seek compensation for negligent treatment and ongoing medical support.

We have represented many women who have been unfairly denied treatment or had their pain disregarded. Failing to acknowledge or investigate a patient’s symptoms can have a catastrophic impact, so we strongly advocate for equal rights to access appropriate health care across Australia. 

Our team of expert medical negligence lawyers are here to help you understand your legal options and to achieve the best possible outcome for you. 

We can help with medical negligence claims

Our team of expert medical negligence lawyers are here to help you understand your legal options and to achieve the best possible outcome for you. 

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