Medical Academy: denying differences between the sexes is unfair from a medical standpoint

On June 5, 2016 the French National Medical Academy published an informational bulletin entitled: “parity in healthcare: scientific research and medicine can no longer ignore biological differences between sexes”.

The Academy esteems that « men and women are biologically different and are not the same when faced with disease, and they should each be taken into account and treated differently”.

The bulletin states that “several European countries have already adapted their scientific research and their therapeutic strategies in function of this, whereas France continues to ignore these recommendations under the pretext of parity”. And thus, “the priority given to gender on the realities of sex, risks creating yet another injustice, therefore it’s the doctors’ and scientists’ responsibility to realize this in order to alert others and act appropriately.”

Nonetheless, “it is known that differences related to sex in fact determine the prevalence, the age when numerous diseases appear, their severity, their evolution, the metabolism, and the response to medication or diet, and behavior”.

According to Claudine Junien, a geneticist and member of the Medical Academy, “We try to erase the differences to reach equality, whereas one needs to take it into account in medical practice but also in medical prevention”.

However, sex is initially and uniquely determined in a biological manner. The genetic differences occur very early during the course of embryonic development.

The geneticist specifies that “parity is not always reached in biomedical research”, research and experiments are performed on individuals of masculine sex. The result is that “women have 1.5 to 2 times more secondary accidents linked to medication than men.” Taking these differences into account would contribute to making advances in medical prevention and practice.

According to cardiologist Vera Regitz-Zagrosek “women suffer from cardiovascular diseases which are different from men, but the diagnosis and treatment are not adapted”. This lack of differentiation of the sexes can sometimes lead to a delay in care-taking of approximately 30 minutes, which could be fatal in the case of a severe myocardial infarct for example.

On the basis of these findings, the French National Academy of Medicine has recommended proceeding to a complete revision of the “principles established from fundamental and clinical research including medical practices in everyday life situations trying to distinguish between the biological differences related to sex and to social constraints related to gender”. Basically they “recommend changing from undifferentiated medicine to sex-determined medicine” whether it be in training, prevention, practice or in research. This differentiation in medicine should be “thought of as an advance in health for women and for men”.

These recommendations from the Academy of Medecine arrive at a time when France has lagged behind. Germany has taken these differences into account for several years, and specific recommendations were published in Germany and on a European level, for example concerning coronary diseases.

For further information:

_         “Medecine denies differences between the sexes… and (wrongly) makes males the standard” (April 2013) by Peggy Sartre, author of “The Sex of Diseases”.