An Unsettling Reality Exposed by “The Retrievals” Podcast

In Female Pelvic Pain by Emily TranLeave a Comment

By PHRC Admin & Co-Author Cecilia Plaza, J.D


Have you listened to The Retrievals podcast series? 

In a world where pain is subjective, women often find themselves marginalized, dismissed, and even ignored when it comes to their own experiences of pain. This issue has recently been brought to light through a thought-provoking podcast called “The Retrievals,” hosted by Susan Burton, which explores the systemic dismissal of women’s pain within the medical field. In this blog post, we will delve into the revelations shared by the podcast and shed light on the urgent need for change.

The podcast, “The Retrievals,” sheds light on the challenges faced by women when seeking adequate pain control during medical procedures and shares stories from women who underwent IVF egg retrievals without adequate pain control. 

The Dismissal of Women’s Pain:

 “The Retrievals” podcast serves as a powerful platform to amplify the voices of women who have undergone IVF egg retrieval without proper pain control. Shockingly, these women’s pain was exacerbated by a nurse diverting their medication, leaving them in excruciating discomfort. This series revealed the truth behind Yale’s fertility clinic and their involvement and handling of one of their nurses swapping saline for fentanyl in these procedures. The journalist raises the question of why we do not trust our patients more, especially when it comes to pain. hy did no one intervene or stop the procedure when the patient was clearly in extreme pain? Why was the patient’s pain minimized and not believed? How did this happen, over and over, to so many women? 


Systemic Minimization of Women’s Pain: 

Unfortunately, the dismissal of women’s pain is not an isolated incident. It is a systemic issue deeply ingrained within the medical profession. Many medical practitioners tend to think of women as being more emotional, irrational, and “hysterical” than men, leading practitioners to believe that women patients exaggerate their symptoms. As a result, they’re treated less seriously, and, on average, receive less screening, testing, and treatment than men. Women of color, particularly Black women, face even more extreme dismissal of their pain, highlighting the intersectionality of this problem. There is a pervasive myth, still believed by some, that Black patients, and Black women in particular, are less able to feel pain than White patients. Finally, the racist and misogynistic history of government control over reproduction, from 1900s eugenics to present-day birth control restrictions, has left the medical system primed to view women as vessels, prioritizing their reproductive function over their overall well-being.

Gender Bias and Its Consequences: 

The podcast sheds light on the gender bias that permeates the medical profession. Doctors often assume that women seek treatment solely for eventual pregnancy, neglecting other aspects of their health and well-being. Women’s worth is all too frequently tied to their reproductive capacity, leaving little room for acknowledgment of their pain and trauma.

Inequality in Medical Care: 

Women’s pain is not treated equally because women are not treated equally. Suing for malpractice due to subpar treatment is often more difficult for women. The standard of care provided to women is lower due to a lack of knowledge about women’s health, symptom presentation, and illnesses that disproportionately affect women, as well as a pervasive distrust and discounting of women patients. This perpetuates their suffering and compromises their overall quality of life. It is crucial to recognize that women are more than mere vessels and that their pain should be taken seriously. This is highlighted in the podcast when Susan Burton stumbles upon an article titled “Miss Diagnosis: Gendered Injustice in Medical Malpractice Law” by Cecilia Plaza, J.D., when asking the question “can you sue for pain?” This article is a must read and identifies and addresses the knowledge gap, as well as the trust gap that has led to the dismissal of women’s pain and gender gaps in medical research and practice.


Paving the Way for Change: 

To address this pressing issue, it is essential to challenge sexism within the medical profession and advocate for a paradigm shift in how women’s pain is perceived and treated. Healthcare providers must prioritize women’s pain and trauma, considering their holistic well-being beyond just their reproductive capacity. Finding supportive and understanding healthcare providers can significantly improve a woman’s quality of life during fertility treatments and beyond.

The revelations shared by “The Retrievals” podcast have brought to light the disturbing reality of women’s pain being minimized within the medical system. It is imperative that we recognize the gender bias and systemic flaws that perpetuate this injustice. By amplifying these voices, advocating for equal treatment, and demanding change, we can strive toward a future where women’s pain is acknowledged, validated, and appropriately addressed.

The pod criticizes the medical system for treating women’s bodies as vessels solely for reproduction, prioritizing the goal of having a baby over the overall well-being of women. This is highlighted in the podcast when Susan Burton describes the letter that was sent to women who might have been impacted by the clinic nurse’s diversion of fentanyl and the clinic’s improper handling of opiates, stating that there was “no reason to believe that this event has had any negative effect on your health or the outcome of the care that you received.”  It exemplifies the prevalence of sexism in the medical profession, with doctors assuming that women seek treatment solely for eventual pregnancy. The idea that extreme pain, trauma, and betrayal by trusted medical professionals didn’t negatively affect the health of the victims is laughable. And yet, this is the basis of and continues to reproduce lower standards of care and unequal treatment for women, as well as making it harder for them to sue for malpractice after receiving appropriate pain management.


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