In the NHS, resources are always limited. Health services spend, rather than generate money, and so are always on a budget. Over the years, I have felt slighted and dismissed by some doctors and GPs (although many have been utterly lovely), not because they are particularly biased against me, but because they are required to average under 10 minutes per appointment. I suspect my medical notes suggest I am a whinging psychiatric hypochondriac, like so many other patients who have been consulting Doctor Google. If they can get me back out the door again quickly, they will make up time for patients who genuinely need their help. Presumably they have spent their careers facing a procession of clueless morons with phantom ailments and they have grown used to knowing best. Unfortunately, as a “White”, “Middle-Class” man, I can’t attribute their attitude to prejudice and oppression (Dammit!) In fact, they are entirely correct about me.
Elites will concentrate on, and fund research into, issues that affect them most closely and directly: wars and famines at home before those abroad, for example; diseases that affect people like them: the Irish famine was not genocide, it was the result of a London-based government deciding to spend its money on other things than famine relief, because the victims were not dying on London streets.
In the case of treatment of the menopause, gender is a key issue, but there probably others – general ageism; mortality rates and so on. I suspect medical researchers who have prioritised other areas than the menopause have not done so (in recent times) because they hold to doctrines of women’s inferiority. Instead, they have inherited a legacy of medical training and thought that has focussed them on other areas, and set them off on other lines of enquiry.
There are always queues for medical treatments and funding, and there will always be people at the back of them. I had Grave’s disease, also a hormone problem, for years, and my experience of endocrinology, the branch of medicine that deals with hormone therapies, is that it is a sleepy backwater of medicine with little funding and where little research is done. I suspect this is because patients do not die. They can carry on, even if their treatments aren’t quite right. Also, these patients present with symptoms of mind and mood, and medicine is a hard-nosed, empirical science, deeply suspicious of such self-pitying nonsense.
Assumptions of privilege can also work against the individual members of elite groups. I wasn’t diagnosed as anorexic for ages, because it was an affliction associated with disempowered teenage girls, not men. The OxyContin/Opioid crisis has had less of an impact on Afro-Caribbean than white Americans, apparently, because doctors were less likely to treat pain aggressively in black people, and felt they were more likely to abuse pain-killers! (1) This is poetic justice for America as a whole, but is still pretty rough on the individual white addict who was assured their pain-killers weren’t addictive.
- BBC Radio 4, The Opioid Crisis and The Erosion of Trust, 10/05/21