The word bias spelled out in block letters.

Have you ever been to the doctor’s office only to be dismissed of your very real symptoms and pains?

Ever heard “it’s all in your head”? Or “oh it’s just a minor headache,” when you’re certain it’s much, much more?

It’s painful when your doctor doubts your issues. And what’s worse? Sometimes you start believing them.

Welcome to medical gaslighting. 

Deborah Cohan is someone who experienced medical gaslighting firsthand. When she was doubling over with excruciating midsection pain, her doctor simply dismissed her concerns. 

“It’s just some back pain. Here, take these muscle relaxants.”

When the medicine resolved nothing, she rushed to the ER. There, she experienced more dismissive behavior. The doctor there told Cohan she had uterine fibroids. That couldn’t be possible because Deborah explained to them she no longer had a uterus. 

That wasn’t the case, the doctor explained. “You’re mistaken.”

After being dismissed over and over again, it was finally revealed by her gynecologist she had a condition called ovarian torsion. Not back pain. Not uterine fibroids. She had to have immediate surgery to remove both surgeries. Deborah’s concerns were as real as her pains. 

Medical gaslighting can have some pretty serious consequences. When it leads to medical negligence, the results can sometimes be fatal. If Deborah’s story hits close to home, you might have experienced medical gaslighting yourself. Do you believe your doctor’s dismissive behavior has caused you injury or worsened any existing conditions? You may be able to file a claim.

Black and white photo of a woman holding her stomach in pain.

What Is Medical Gaslighting?

You probably know what gaslighting is. But just in case you don’t – it’s the repeated denial of someone else’s reality in an attempt to invalidate or dismiss them. It’s actually considered emotional abuse. So how does this work in the medical field?

Medical gaslighting is when a physician or other medical providers downplay a patient’s concerns.

Here’s what that can look like:

  • A provider blames a patient’s symptoms or illness on psychological factors.
  • A provider trivializes a patient’s symptoms.
  • The provider denies a patient’s illness entirely.

Not great. But is it malpractice?

Medical Gaslighting Is A Form Of Malpractice

Some forms of medical malpractice can be spotted from a mile away. It’s easy to notice negligence when a surgeon leaves a dirty rag inside your body. Or when your doctor prescribes you the wrong medicine. But dismissive behavior? Downplaying your symptoms? Not so easy.

Medical gaslighting can have some pretty serious consequences, too. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone if you have even the slightest suspicion something isn’t right. 

Feeling dismissed by your doctor is just the tip of this gaslighting iceberg.

Here’s what can happen if a doctor gaslights you:

You may get scared. 

Imagine feeling constant pain just so your doctor can say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. That’s when a very real fear kicks in. It feels like nobody will help you. If your own doctor can’t take the pain away, who can?

You may get misdiagnosed.

Sometimes a provider can gaslight you into thinking your condition isn’t as severe. They might misdiagnose you with something less serious. In this case, you’d be getting treatment for a condition you don’t have at all.

You may experience delayed diagnosis.

If your provider misdiagnoses you, or just sends you home altogether, what does that mean for your existing condition? A delayed diagnosis (or no diagnoses) can lead to disease progression. Your underlying condition can worsen without you receiving the proper treatment for it. This can be fatal in some cases.

How To File A Claim For Medical Gaslighting

Simply saying a physician was gaslighting you probably won’t hold up in court. Filing a malpractice claim and receiving compensation involves more evidence. In order for your case to get anywhere, there’s one crucial information that you need to prove:

The injury, pain, illness, and/or condition you have is the direct result of medical negligence that occurred because of medical gaslighting. 

Your claim must show that your suffering could have been prevented, had the doctor acted more responsibly.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re most likely considering filing a claim. Here’s what you need to do.

Start Preparing

Your claim is as good as your evidence. Collect it! Make sure you gather all important documents pertaining to your case. Your claim will only be accepted if you’re able to prove negligence occurred.

Here are the documents you need to gather:

  • All of your medical documents – this includes any lab test results, scans, and/or x-rays
  • Medical bills or receipts – you can get compensated for these
  • All forms of communication between you and your provider
  • Any medications or prescriptions 

Contact An Experienced Lawyer

Handling a medical malpractice case all on your own is a difficult feat. Especially one that can be tricky to prove. A professional attorney can help take the burden off your shoulders while also ensuring your case is handled smoothly. 

Act Fast

There’s usually a strict statute of limitations with medical malpractice cases. This timeline is usually 2 years. That means you have to file your claim within two years of your injury.

Man speaks with malpractice lawyer.

Proving Negligence

Remember when we mentioned a surgeon leaving behind a dirty rag in a patient’s body? That sort of negligence wouldn’t be very difficult to prove. But medical gaslighting? How do you prove that?

After you’ve gathered all your evidence, here’s what your claim must show:

  1. The medical provider had a duty to provide the patient with proper medical care. This includes properly diagnosing you and not downplaying your symptoms.
  2. There was a breach of duty. Every medical professional has a standard of care they must follow. If they performed below that standard, they breached their duty.
  3. The actions of the medical provider caused you harm.
  4. The damages you suffered. This can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.

Gaslighting and healthcare don’t mix. Unfortunately, some people still experience this form of medical negligence by their healthcare providers. We understand how frustrating and detrimental this can be to your mental and physical wellbeing. That’s why we’re here to listen. Contact us so we can discuss your experience. We can discuss the best course of action for your case and get you the justice you deserve.

Medical Gaslighting – Quick Answers 

Who Is At Risk Of Medical Gaslighting?

Anyone can fall victim to medical gaslighting. However, certain individuals are more prone to dismissive behavior from some medical providers.

Research shows doctors are more likely to tell women their symptoms are simply due to stress or depression. This is gaslighting in the form of gender bias.

Can You Prevent Medical Gaslighting?

There’s no fool-proof method to ensure you won’t become a victim of medical gaslighting. But you can take a few measures to decrease your chances.

  • Look for health care professionals who are honest, respectful, and attentive. Good healthcare workers know to consider your feelings (instead of shoving them aside).
  • Bring someone along. Unfortunately, most people who experience medical gaslighting go into their appointments alone. Individuals are more prone to this kind of behavior.

My doctor sounds pretty convincing. Maybe it is all in my head. What should I do?

We get conditioned to always follow the doctor’s instructions. Sometimes, we never question their diagnosis (or lack thereof). Please get a second opinion from another provider. And maybe even a third. Nothing is more important than your health!

And if you were a patient who still needed treatment but were abandoned, you may have a case. Learn about patient abandonment here.