Female Surgeons Are Disadvantaged; What's Too Much in Consent Talk?; and Women Miss Out on Drug Advisory Boards

Patrick Lee

December 05, 2022

Female Surgeons Are Disadvantaged

Women surgeons face physical disadvantages that men don't, according to a review by an Italian research group. Specifically, surgical instruments and operating equipment and facilities were developed for men with larger body sizes rather than for women, resulting in a sex-specific disadvantage in the surgical field, according to the review of 15 studies.

Because of women's generally smaller body and glove size, female surgeons develop musculoskeletal complaints almost twice as often as their male counterparts do, the review finds.

Small glove size: The review finds a correlation between small glove size and a general dissatisfaction with anastomosis clamps and laparoscopic instruments in at least three studies.

Women are better surgeons: That's true, particularly for female patients, according to a study in JAMA Surgery. Some 37% of surgical trainees younger than 34 years are women, according to the German Medical Association.

What's Too Much in Consent Talk?

Discussing informed consent with patients requires physicians to tread the line between offering too little and too much information. But how a doctor handles the informed consent process can be the difference between a positive outcome and a negative one, according to Medscape's Right and Wrong in Medicine: Life, Death, and Wrenching Choices.

"One of the most challenging aspects of informed consent, especially for young physicians, is how to discuss a procedure or a medication in a manner that is both relevant and concise," said bioethicist Erum N. Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology. "I've had residents about to perform a skin biopsy spend several minutes covering every aspect of every potential outcome of a routine skin biopsy. The patient is left traumatized and confused as to whether they should proceed with the small procedure."

Discussion goal: The optimal outcome is that the patient has a general overview of the procedure and is empowered, knowing that the decision to proceed is part of their decision-making process.

Keep records: Documenting the interaction is critical, professionals advise.

Women Miss Out on Drug Advisory Boards

Few women sit on the advisory boards of pharmaceutical companies, and that means they have less say in the development of new drugs, according to a new analysis. Oncologists who sit on such boards have a chance to influence clinical trials and drug commercialization and to "inform decisions that affect the oncology community," according to the analysis in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Of 15 advisory boards analyzed, 71% of the members were men and only 29% were women between 2019 and 2022.

The analysis looked at the gender of board members by interpreting first names and reviewing web-based profiles; no public reports describe the gender makeup of industry advisory boards. The analysis was based on unpublished data from a single company.

High confidence: Authors acknowledge that the analysis may not be representative of the entire industry but feel confident the data offers insight into gender imbalance.

Allies can help: The analysis suggests that male allies can help by stepping in, acknowledging the disparity, and asking why women aren't being included.

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