The Girl Who Cried Pain: a research paper

by Dianne E. Hoffmann & Anita J. Tanzian from the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Vol. 29 2001

“Medical schools must endorse, and teach students, an approach that best elicits the concerns of any patient in pain — an approach that does not discount the patient’s subjective reports of pain. This will require attentiveness to the emotional aspects of a patient’s reports of pain.

Women’s pain tends to be viewed as more emotionally based and thus less credible — or, likewise, less credible if indeed it is emotionally based.

That is, women may: (1) have their pain complaints erroneously dismissed as being emotionally-based and therefore “not real” when there is no significant psychological component to the pain; (2) have the likely psychological components that accompany chronic pain be misidentified by health-care providers as the cause, rather than the result of their unrelieved pain, leading to a discounting of the pain; or (3) have the psychological problem that is the source of their pain be discounted and not adequately addressed. All three are inappropriate and reveal a disdain for psychosocial contributors to pain over evidence of organic causation.


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