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Why women may be at higher risk of emergency room errors

People head to the emergency room when they know there is something physically wrong and that they need immediate care. They do not have the time to wait for an appointment at their doctor’s office, so they don’t generally care which medical professional treats them as long as they receive care soon. Sadly, not everyone who rushes to the emergency room for medical care receives the evaluation and treatment they require. When an emergency room is busy, the people working there often have to make very difficult decisions about who gets seen by a physician first. Even when the emergency room isn’t busy, people can get turned away without a proper diagnosis and/or treatment.

The people working at an emergency room can potentially make mistakes when attempting to estimate the severity of someone’s condition and when determining how quickly they require care. Although errors in an emergency room can happen to anyone, women are potentially at higher risk for errors when they are struggling with serious medical issues.

Women often present with different symptoms

Many people know the symptoms of a heart attack in part because they have always seen the same performance in a movie. Someone grabs their left arm, looking pained, before slumping over. However, a heart attack doesn’t present the same symptoms in both sexes. Women may feel pain in their upper back or report dizziness, which doesn’t align with the traditional symptoms of a heart attack.

Most of the medical training that professionals receive comes from research based almost exclusively on the male anatomy. Heart attacks and strokes are among the medical conditions that emergency room workers may fail to identify in women because of how their symptoms are different. However, this is a known issue that individual workers and institutions could seek to overcome with enhanced training.

Those turned away from the hospital only to have worsening symptoms of a condition that went undiagnosed and those who have lost a loved one because of diagnostic errors at an emergency room may be able to seek compensation from the healthcare facility where the error occurred by pursuing a medical malpractice claim. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can lead to compensation for those affected by poor healthcare practices and could also force a hospital to better train its workers to avoid sex-based diagnosis errors in the future.