In Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018), Maya Dusenbery brings together scientific and sociological research, interviews with doctors and researchers, and personal stories from women across the country to provide the first comprehensive, accessible look at how sexism in medicine harms women today.
Doing Harm 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 with endometriosis have been told they are just overreacting to "normal" menstrual cramps, while still others 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 profession.
An eye-opening read for patients and health care providers alike, Doing Harm shows how women suffer because the medical community knows relatively less about their diseases and bodies and too often doesn't trust their 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 disease risk factors—even the symptoms of a heart attack. Meanwhile, a long history of viewing women as especially prone to "hysteria" reverberates to the present day, leaving women battling against a stereotype that they're hypochondriacs whose ailments are likely to be "all in their heads."
Offering a clear-eyed explanation of the root causes of this insidious and entrenched bias and laying out its sometimes catastrophic consequences, Doing Harm is a rallying wake-up call that will change the way we look at health care for women.
"Ever since the centuries of burning women healers as witches—because they taught women how to govern our own bodies, thus to control reproduction—the medical world hasn't included all of humanity. Doing Harm shows what is left to be done, and directs both women and men toward healing." —Gloria Steinem
"Maya Dusenbery brings new life to one of the most urgent yet under-discussed feminist issues of our time. Anyone who cares about women's health needs to read this book." —Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object: A Memoir
"In this groundbreaking book, Dusenbery shows how the same forces that hold women back in society more broadly lead to sub-par medical care and inadequate attention to health issues that impact women. Every doctor, scientist, health care provider and researcher should read this book. And so should every woman." —Jill Filipovic, author of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness
"Maya 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 would be required reading in medical schools from this day forward." —Courtney E. Martin, author of The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream
"Dusenbery challenges a new generation of women and practitioners to fight for medical equity and shines a harsh light on the sex bias that pervades every level of medicine. It's outrageous that such malignant neglect exists more than two decades after the government acknowledged the gaps in knowledge about women’s health." —Leslie Laurence, co-author of Outrageous Practices: The Alarming Truth about How Medicine Mistreats Women
"Doing Harm is a deeply researched and very readable exploration of the systematic mistreatment of women in our medical system—and how even those with the best intentions perpetuate it. This book is an eye-opener; may it also be a call for real, sustained change." —Kate Harding, author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture
"An intensive, timely spotlight... Within an organized, well-balanced combination of scientific and social research and moving personal stories, Dusenbery makes a convincing case for the need for drastic industry reform and clinical refinement." — Kirkus
"Dusenbery's excellent book makes the sexism plaguing women’s health care hard to ignore... She skillfully interweaves history, medical studies, current literature, and hard data to produce damning evidence that women wait longer for diagnoses, receive inadequate pain management, and are often told they are imagining symptoms that are taken seriously in men." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)