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Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick
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Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,182 ratings  ·  214 reviews
In this shocking, hard-hitting expose in the tradition of Naomi Klein and Barbara Ehrenreich, the editorial director of, reveals how gender bias infects every level of medicine and healthcare today—leading to inadequate, inappropriate, and even dangerous treatment that threatens women’s lives and well-being.

Maya Dusenbery brings together scientific and soci
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by HarperOne
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  1,182 ratings  ·  214 reviews

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Start your review of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to take this book to my next doctor's appointment, smack him upside the head with it, and then stand there and read the whole damn thing out loud to him! It was infuriating and maddening to read, but it helped me to feel better that I'm not the only woman who is fighting the medical system for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
I hate to say it, but I found this book pretty repetitive in a lot of spots. Each section, regardless of what part of history or which medical issue was being discussed, felt like I was re-reading entire paragraphs at some point because so much was constantly being reiterated in the same way. Because of that, I also didn't find the writing to be entirely engaging as I expected such a topic to be for me. In fact, it was rather dry. In this case, that doesn't mean I didn't like the book - I though ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent and eye-opening and it made me so mad I wanted to go punch someone. I mean, the fact that even the mice they use to test drugs are male?! WTAF? Every chapter exposes exactly the price that science, civilization, and mostly women have paid for sexism and the distrust of womens pain! I mean--just one example at the end of the book. Doctors called ovarian cancer the silent killer despite the fact that women were complaining of symptoms for years before they were diagnosed! Wo ...more
I will admit that when I picked up this book, I assumed that this would be focusing mostly on women's reproductive healthcare, because that's usually what's meant when "women's health" is discussed. As though we are walking wombs and nothing more. I quickly learned that, though the latter statement is often true, this book was NOT simply about that type of healthcare. It's about EVERY SINGLE WAY that women are failed by the medical industry - from men being the standard for medical research and ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Women's symptoms are not taken seriously because medicine doesn't know as much about their bodies and health problems. And medicine doesn't know as much about their bodies and health problems because it doesn't take their symptoms seriously."

If you are a woman, have a body and go to the doctor, read this book. You will recognise your experience in these pages. You will get enraged. And you will be joined by many other women.

As a sufferer of CFS, I faced years of doctors telling me I was sufferi
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: health, finished-2018
I learned a lot of infuriating information from this book that will hopefully improve future interactions I have with doctors. I wish, though, that the information had been presented better. It was quite a slog, getting through this book. Lots and lots of facts, many repetitive and written in a dry, dull style. Reading non fiction books like these make me appreciate it when I do come across a piece of non fiction that is well written.

What did this book teach me? A lot. There are two overriding p
Zia Okocha
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is must read for all women, doctors who care for women, and anyone with girls and women in their lives (so, yes everyone). As a female physician of color, I know I have come to have antennas up for inherent systemic racism built into our medical education and treatment systems. Until this book, however, I did not notice how sexist the medical system is as well. As the author notes, so many medical conditions that cause knee-jerk negative reactions are experienced mostly by women. She a ...more
Alex Linschoten
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
Important and timely. Dusenbery has hit the nail on the head with this book. I highlighted so many passages. She reveals how -- at almost every turn -- women are rendered dismissed, ignored and invisible by the medical system.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is great. A fantastic examination of the ways women's health is ignored and dismissed, as well as sex and gender biases that lead to inadequate research on certain diseases.

It's also a personally significant thing for Ms. Dusenbery, who has rheumatoid arthritis (a disease primarily affecting women).

There are three main ways that medicine fails women:

1) Animal studies are almost entirely done on male animals, not female. The reasoning? Female animal's menstrual cycles could throw off the
Alyssa Foll
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an eye-opening read about how poorly women are treated in the medical system. Maya Dusenbery examines multiple factors for why medicine tends to be sexist and paternalistic in its care of women, but she also shares countless stories of women who advocated for themselves and for the healthcare they deserved.
I can't say that this is a "pop" science read-- there was an impressive amount of data, acronyms, and medical jargon. However, it is well worth the read to explore how women in pain
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Originally published on my book blog,

Maya Dusenberry compiles and analyzes a boat load of important information in Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Now you know her theme—the way women suffer because of misogyny and prejudicial thinking by medical professionals.

If you are a woman reading this review, I heard you. You just said, “Duh.” Because a woman of practically any age can tell you at least one (a
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read book for women

I had no idea how lucky I have been with my medical care and how often women are told their symptoms are "all in your head". This is an informative infuriating book and well worth your time to read. Highly recommended
Laura (Kyahgirl)
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura (Kyahgirl) by: Jessica
4 stars for depth and content/ 2 stars for delivery.

I really appreciate the amount of work that the author did in pulling together a massive amount of information, not only about medical education and history, but also about diseases. However, I ended up skimming parts of the book because she bypassed the “less is more” guideline.

I think the message of the book was well delivered in the first 25% or so and it’s definitely worth reading.

There is an excellent bibliography which is something I al
Shaina Robbins
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Would it be inappropriate for me to give a copy of this to every medical professional I meet? Or maybe just to a couple of terrible of doctors from my past?
Kent Winward
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A needed update and more comprehensive analysis of the issues raised in Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness. We are in an era, not unlike the era before the discovery of bacterial caused disease. The solution is in listening to the sick and afflicted, not discounting them with labels of "conversion," "functional," or "psychosomatic." We have a long way to go to fix our medical system and its treatment of most of its patients. ...more
Robin Graber
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sjw-curriculum
I have a few female friends with chronic illness that have struggled through the medical system, so I already knew that we definitely have some issues when it comes to the medical system. But holy hell it goes even deeper than I thought. This book is filled with stats and stories that show how deeply flawed our medical system is when it comes to women’s health.

The one that got me the most was her chapter on heart attacks and chest pains. I could not believe how many women get turned away IN THE
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deep dive into decades-long practices in science and medicine that disadvantage women from the word go. Bad science, prejudicial and paternalistic attitudes by physicians and other care providers, and a persistent belief that women’s self-reported symptoms are not to be trusted. Dusenbery gets into the actual published science behind all the bad science/medicine and how the tides are slowly beginning to turn.

Book 2 of the three-Book trifecta coming out 3/6 about women’s health and chronic ill
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was a very difficult read for me because nearly every page filled me with outrage. Anyone who has gone to the doctor while female will recognize some of the ways that women's suffering has been ignored, dismissed, and marginalized, often leading to delayed diagnoses, additional sufferings, and inflated medical costs. And that is just for diseases with a known somatic basis. Pity the poor woman who suffers from a mystery disease - she is more likely to get a mental illness diagnosis of ...more
Marianne K
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A repetitive look at gender-bias in the doctor/ patient relationship. Having experienced this firsthand, I certainly agreed with the premise. I almost bailed in the introduction as the author had so many liberal views that I do not subscribe to, "... nature is a lot more diverse than the two categories [gender] we try to impose on it", uh, no, sorry. Here's another gag-inducing gem, "I won't be discussing routine reproductive health care in this book-that is, contraception, abortion, and care du ...more
Kira Brighton
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a woman with multiple female-dominant medical conditions (most of which were discussed in this book), I'm thrilled this book exists. It's vital that we have this modern examination of sexism in the medical industry. Some of what's in this book I already knew, from prior research and personal experience, but I still found it to be stunning and educational.

I personally related most to chapters 2, 5, and 7, and to some degree, 6.

(If you're interested in hearing more about my own chronic illness
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paper, non-fiction, 2018
Important and heartbreaking. The lengths to which a woman must advocate for her own care is ridiculous. Every health provider needs to read this book, even if they think they treat all patients the same (because guess what - they probably don’t).
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: printed
Forthcoming. If you’re going into/already in science or medicine OR if you support feminism (hopefully everyone), this book is an important siren call for bias awareness.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
important and timely. should be read by all medical professionals.
Much of the book focuses on anecdotes of doctors dismissing womens' symptoms simply because the patients are women. "Before [the twentieth century], doctors had no choice but to take patients at their word about what they were experiencing in their bodies." p 69 However, "I spoke to a depressing number of women with a range of conditions who attested to the power of a male relative - whether a partner, a father, or even a son - to help ensure their symptoms were taken seriously." p295 One young ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book. Just writing this review so I remember some main/interesting points. Also I would like to say while this books point out the errors of medicine and medical practitioners, it is not a blame book. Yes doctors make errors but it is an imperfect system, with imperfect people, and everyone has their own biases/prejudices/preconceived notions that they are not always aware of. I would say the most important take away from this is to make sure you are advocating for yourself because u ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just sad and terrifying. This whole book made me angry. Lots of good ideas to bring to my Dr appointment next week though.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Infuriating and terrifying. Why is it so hard to believe women?
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written in journalistic style, so it's very readable, but also includes a lot of references and notes for further exploration, which satisfies my nerdy heart.
Sara Kalucza
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Albeit a bit repetetive at spots, this is a great and infuriating odyssey through gender bias in the medical world. I think the repetetativeness could actually be helpful for people whit specific interests in certain chapters, pertaining to their own illnesses and experiences. I could for example see my self recommending certain chapters to some of my friends, without them having/wanting to read the whole book. In these cases the repeating of some arguments through several chapters is helpful.

Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
This book was both incredible and horrifying. It tracks how the lack of knowledge of women’s health issues due to lack of studies as well as the lack of belief doctors are willing to give women patients cause us to struggle so much with the health system. Who among us hasn’t gotten dismissive and sexist statements from doctors?

I’ve been remarkably lucky in my health, but have had a doctor ask me how a “pretty little thing” like me could have gotten injured when I had a broken toe (he finally ga
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Maya Dusenbery is a writer, editor, and author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick.

In 2013, Maya became editorial director of the award-winning site, where she has written about a range of feminist topics since 2009. She has also been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and an online columnist at Pacific Stand

News & Interviews

Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," start...
38 likes · 5 comments
“To be sure, depression, anxiety, and prolonged stress can cause specific physical symptoms, but these symptoms are not limitless, nor are they actually unexplained. When doctors invoke these labels for symptoms as diverse as vomiting, paralysis, and sever, unending pain, it is the concept of the somatoform disorders--hysteria dressed up in modern garb-- that allows them to do so.” 6 likes
“Only 15 percent of the doctors diagnosed heart disease
in the woman, compared to 56 percent for the man, and only 30 percent
referred the woman to a cardiologist, compared to 62 percent for the man.
Finally, only 13 percent suggested cardiac medication for the woman, versus
47 percent for the man.”
More quotes…