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Female Patients in Ontario Have a Greater Risk of Death After Surgery By Male Doctor: Study

Male doctor holding a clipboard

An Ontario-based study has discovered that female patients have a greater risk of death after undergoing surgeries performed by male physicians.

The study examined 1.3 million patients over the age of 18 who underwent one of the 21 most common surgeries in Ontario between 2007 and 2019. The surgeries ranged from hip replacements to neurosurgery. The researchers found that female patients who were treated by male surgeons had about a 15 per cent increase in adverse outcomes. They had a 30 per cent increase in the risk of death after having surgery performed by men, according to CTV News. (Note: The Hill says the risk is 32 per cent higher.)

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When it came to the outcomes for male patients, the sex of the operating surgeon was not found to have an impact on post-operation results.

“These results are concerning because there should be no sex difference in patient outcomes, regardless of the surgeon’s sex,” Angela Jerath, an associate professor at the University of Toronto in Canada and a co-author of the findings, told The Guardian. “When a female surgeon operates, patient outcomes are generally better, particularly for women, even after adjusting for differences in chronic health status, age and other factors, when undergoing the same procedures.”

The data, when combined with prior observations with regards to disparities in cardiac care and pain
treatment, suggests that the severity of symptoms in female patients is not taken seriously, particularly among male physicians.

Doctor Christopher Wallis, one of the study’s co-authors, told CTV News that he sees the results of the study as a chance to do better. “I see this not as condemnation of my professional career in practice, but rather, as an opportunity to be reflective and thoughtful and think about how I’m interacting with my patients and any differences in how I may need to communicate with my male and female patients in order to make sure that expectations are appropriate, that we’re communicating and understanding each other fully,” he said.

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