Author Dr. Elinor Cleghorn and the cover of her book.
Credit: Photo, Lara Downie

Friday on Political Rewind: Access to health care is one of the more dominant theme in politics in recent history. Medicaid expansion, private insurance and the value of Obamacare have been debated through many election cycles and campaigns.

Now, writer Dr. Elinor Cleghorn presents us with a new and deeply troubling look at health care and medical treatment. In her new book, Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World, she tells the harrowing story of how medicine has failed women throughout history. She described sexist assumptions about the frailty of women’s bodies and the way women have been systemically ignored in matters concerning their own bodies.

The misconceptions have been apparent since the days of the ancient Greeks, and, alarmingly, are still evident in how a male-dominated medical establishment operates today. The exclusion of women from health care is despite their role as community caregivers.

"Women across many countries have always made contributions, especially in the areas of childbirth and reproductive care," Cleghorn said. "But I think in terms of what we would call a sort of canonical medical knowledge, women have been excluded from that. So their knowledge or their contribution has not been transmitted as knowledge in the same way [as] the foundational medical knowledge." 

Cleghorn said there are wider disparities in quality of care for women from marginalized communities.

"We talk a lot about things like the gender health gap and the gender pain gap and, of course, how wide that gap is really depends on who you are," she said. "These disparities really widen for women of color."


Dr. Elinor Cleghorn — Author of “Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World”

Patricia Murphy — Political Reporter and Columnist, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution