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Shining a Light on Medical Gaslighting: Advocating for Patients in the Face of Healthcare Injustice

Medical gaslighting

Have you ever gone to a medical provider with serious medical concerns, only to be told you are being “dramatic” or “overreacting” or it is “just anxiety?” In the ever-changing world of healthcare, patients often find themselves at the mercy of medical professionals for their well-being. However, amidst the complexities of diagnosis and treatment, there is a sinister phenomenon called, medical gaslighting. This subtle form of psychological manipulation can have devastating effects on patients including eroding trust and impeding proper care.  

What Is Medical Gaslighting? 

In the 1944 movie Gaslight, a man pushes his wife to question her own sanity through a series of manipulative psychological tactics. This film brought about the term gaslighting: to manipulate another person into doubting their perceptions, experiences, or understanding of events.1 

Medical gaslighting occurs when healthcare providers, usually subconsciously, downplay or dismiss a patient's symptoms, concerns, or experiences. This can lead patients to doubt their own perceptions, leaving them feeling invalidated and confused. Even if a patient believes there is something truly wrong with them, they may accept the medical provider’s dismissal because it comes from a trained professional. Whether it's minimizing pain, dismissing symptoms as psychosomatic, or attributing issues to anxiety or hormones, medical gaslighting can have dangerous consequences: delaying necessary treatment, exacerbating medical conditions, and in the worst cases, death. 

What is gas lighting

Medical Gaslighting: It Happens All The Time, Especially to Women 

While both men and women can be victims of medical gaslighting, it typically relates to dismissing a female patient’s health concerns, enforcing stereotypes that women are irrational, hysterical, and dramatic. As award-winning Professor of Cardiology Dr. Jennifer Mieres said, “Gaslighting is real; it happens all the time. Patients — and especially women — need to be aware of it.”2 Research shows that women suffering serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke are more likely than men to be dismissed or misdiagnosed by their providers.3,4. One study by Academic Emergency Medicine found that women who went to an emergency department with severe stomach pain had to wait almost 33% longer than men with similar symptoms.5 In the case of a health emergency, delays can be deadly.  

What Can I Do About Medical Gaslighting? 

When you are interacting with a medical provider, remember that you are the expert on your own body. Trust your instincts and experiences. Be sure to document specific details of your interactions with a provider. Don’t hesitate to bring a family member or friend with you to your appointment. If you are in a situation where you believe you or a loved one has been medically gaslit, resulting in serious injuries, damages, or death, reach out to an experienced medical malpractice attorney like those at Plakas Mannos. Our firm has experience with a number of cases involving medical gaslighting, including but not limited to: 

  • Patients being diagnosed with vertigo when in fact they were suffering a stroke;
  • Patients being told they had anxiety when in fact they were suffering a serious cardiac condition; and
  • Patient being discharged with hip strain when in fact they were suffering from deadly necrotizing fasciitis.  

Empowering Patients

Patient Empowerment 

At Plakas Mannos, we stand alongside patients, and family members of patients, who have been victims of medical negligence, including medical gaslighting. We aim to empower individuals to assert their rights and hold negligent healthcare providers accountable. We sincerely believe that every patient deserves to be heard, respected, and treated with dignity. Through the cases pursued by our medical malpractice team, we strive to build up a healthcare system where patients can trust that their concerns will be taken seriously. 

Seeking Justice for Medical Negligence 

If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of medical gaslighting resulting in a bad medical outcome or death, you are not alone. Our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers is here to listen, support, and fight for your rights. We understand the complexities of these cases and the emotional toll they can take. From gathering evidence to negotiating settlements, or fighting for you in court, we will stand by you every step of the way. Our goal is to ensure that your voice is heard and that those in the wrong are held accountable. If you think you have a medical gaslighting case, contact us today. 



About the Authors

Megan Elisabeth C. Jackson headshot

Megan J. Frantz Oldham is a partner and attorney at Plakas Mannos where she focuses on litigation for medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, personal injury, wrongful death, and other practice areas. Elisabeth C. Jackson is an associate attorney, focusing on personal injury, wrongful death, criminal law, and general litigation.

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