Doctors and Women's Pain

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This week, Shruti Pinnamaneni and the brilliant team at Reply All did that thing they do so well: they took the slender thread of a story—in this case, a person suffering from a mysterious medley of ailments—and followed that thread to surprising and fascinating places. Hope, the story’s protagonist, tells a gutwrenching tale of going to different doctors for second and third and fifth and eighth opinions, receiving over and over the same diagnosis of anxiety-induced migraines, being prescribed again and again treatments that alleviate none of her pain.

And then, late in the story, there’s a particularly thought-provoking moment. Dr. Lisa Sanders, the Yale University School of Medicine internist whose New York Times column inspired the hit show House, says to Hope, “I bet neither of the primary care doctors you went to see were women.”

When I read Joe Fassler’s brutal account of the time no one believed his wife was having an emergency, I thought of Hope, and Dr. Sanders’s bet. Thousands of people are reading that story as I write, and I suspect these accounts resonate much more widely. Do you have stories like these?