All too often the mistreatment of patients with disabilities/medical conditions/chronic illness is regarded by society as a lesser offense (or not an offense at all) and its survivors’ resulting trauma not acknowledged by the general public, including those agencies whose job it is to investigate, regulate, and take corrective action to ensure that healthcare and its providers act in the best interests of their patients.
It is well documented that women are disproportionately the targets for abuse in all settings, and that there exists an unspoken acceptance by those around them of behavior that treats them as “less than”, not as important, brushes off their valid complaints, and treats them as though they’re expected to just suck it up and “take it.”
When we women gain the courage to break the silence, we are considered either weak, negative, over-dramatic, or even a “bitch” if we dare to protest and stand up for ourselves against such maltreatment.
In a seemingly civilized society this bias should never be socially acceptable, but because this attitude has been so deeply ingrained it’s become almost unconscious in most people, in much the same way as institutional racism.
Most people if asked, for instance, wouldn’t consider themselves racist but actually do have some biases even if they’re unaware of it. The same goes for sexism and ableism. However subtle, these personal views do affect behavior and end up driving public policy that we citizens are forced to live with for better or worse.
It is often older males who have historically set the tone for what’s acceptable and what’s not and in many other issues around which laws are enacted such as medical marijuana for example, long-held beliefs change when those who are part of the “ruling class” become personally impacted by such hot-button issues. Since men have commonly led the attack on women it often isn’t until they themselves suffer the same sort of attack that social change begins, and the tide turns.
However, woman can be powerful ambassadors in life, as in US Congress! Congresswomen sit on committees alongside men, and although the “old boys’ network” still tends to rule there, women, especially when they lead committees can be valuable and meticulous in gathering vital information and organizing it in a well-reasoned and cogent argument for why old ways and outdated modes of thinking should be replaced by more enightened ones.
The growing refusal of regulatory agencies to enforce existing laws because of widespread internalized bias is precisely why it’s become necessary to craft a legislative solution to the growing epidemic of institutional bullying, particularly when it happens in medical settings, as the stodgy and misogynistic attitudes that still dominate in public and private life are harmful to patients who become ill and need all the help they can get for their very survival.
Secretary Sylvia Burwell of US Committee on Health & Human Services is in such a position to bring our voices to those in Congress who can level the playing field.
Last week some of us who have experienced abusive practices in the medical system wrote up a petition through Change.org, a site that offers a platform for online activism.
This petition outlines and emphasizes the problems and barriers we see which hinder access to compassionate and respectful medical care, and proposes specific amendments and changes to existing civil rights/hate crimes/disability, and other pertinent laws to remedy loopholes that currently exist.
The current system is quite frankly broken and the end result is that way too many patients are not getting the care we need from our doctors and those who employ them, nor are we obtaining justice when our rights are violated by those who should be working on our behalf.
Please read and sign this petition, and if you or someone you love has been wronged by medical professionals and/or the facilities that they work for then you can be part of the solution.
Tell Secretary Burwell your story by posting it on the Change.org site in the area provided below the petition for comments.
Your written personal accounts will be very useful in bringing about and ensuring fairness and true access to care that respects all medical patients and treats us with dignity.
Change.org is set up so that each comment added is forwarded straight to her so that she can bring this very crucial information to Congress.
It’s important that you be as specific as possible about what exactly was done to you, how it has adversely affected your life, and share any details you can about how this delayed or stopped your testing and/or treatment, prolonged your suffering, and any ways in which the mistreatment resulted in the worsening of your condition (physically, mentally, and otherwise).
If you are a friend or loved one of a patient who has been adversely affected we welcome your input as well (men as well as women) even though women are more likely to be targeted than men for this type of abuse in medicine.
This may be one of the most important opportunities you’ll have in your life to make a real difference, not only for yourself, family or friend(s), but for all those who have suffered this type of cruelty and discrimination in the medical system.
Please also share the link below with your social media and any groups and other interested parties you think are likely to be interested in this issue.