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Suffering in silence: Ignoring Women’s Chronic Pain

Ignoring Women's Chronic Pain

The 2020 Newcastle Writers Festival tackled the issue of women’s chronic pain in a discussion titled  How Our Bodies Shape Us featuring writers Gabrielle Jackson and Lee Kofman.

In her book, Pain and Prejudice: A Call to Arms for Women and Their Bodies, Jackson talks about how the medical profession fails women with chronic conditions, as the cause of their pain can often go undiagnosed for years or their pain is often dismissed as being “all in the head.”

Jackson says that part of the reason why we don’t understand chronic pain is because most sufferers are women. She says that when women come to doctors with their pain, “they are seen as complaining.” There is also an expectation for women to put up with pain: from menstrual pain to childbirth. By placing this unrealistic expectation on women, she says, society has subjected women to years of pain, and that not doing anything about it results in even more pain.

Unfortunately, at Catherine Henry Lawyers we see the same substandard healthcare too often. Most of the women who have received inadequate medical treatment come to us because they want their stories to be heard and they want the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Our health law team focus on women’s health because, as Jackson pointed out, women are the biggest users of our medical system. Catherine Henry Lawyers team of medical experts have seen how misdiagnoses not only subjects a patient to years of suffering, but it can lead to death.

Jackson relayed the tragic story of Naomi Williams, a 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman who was 22 weeks’ pregnant with a son when she died of septicaemia in Tumut Hospital. The inquest heard that she made 20 visits to the Hospital and several doctors about her pain in the seven months before her death.

In a case brought in the Supreme Court of NSW as a result of improper sepsis treatment, Catherine Henry Lawyers successfully sought damages for our client who was misdiagnosed with gastroenteritis. The experts we engaged in this matter found that our client was actually suffering acute bacterial infection of the bloodstream at the time of discharge and was at high risk of harm, including death, in the event her condition remained undiagnosed and in the event she was not promptly administered antibiotics. By the time IV antibiotics were finally administered, our client had gone into septic shock and experienced multiorgan failure.

It’s not surprising that women with chronic pain conditions report a reduction in pain when they find a doctor that they can trust and who doesn’t simply dismiss their symptoms.

If you think that you are not getting the right medical treatment or if you or a loved one has experienced medical negligence, please get in touch with one of our caring, expert lawyers about the options available to you.

Taking legal action can also help change health care practices and hold health care professionals to account so other people do not to have to experience what you went through.

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