Study finds gender bias on transplant waiting lists

Researchers at Johns Hopkins find that women with renal disease have less access than men to lifesaving transplants.

Published March 27, 2009 12:56PM (EDT)

Good news: If you're already on a waiting list for a kidney transplant (the subject of an unrelated story on Salon today), your gender probably won't affect your chances of getting a kidney. Bad news: If you're a woman, you might be less likely than a man to make that list in the first place. Researchers at Johns Hopkins, after analyzing data from over half a million patients with renal disease, have found that female patients over the age of 45 do not have the same access to transplant waiting lists as their male counterparts. What's more, according to Dr. Dorry Segev, who led the study, "as they got older, they had less and less and less."

Specifically, women between 46 and 55 were 3 percent less likely to be added to a list. Women between 56 and 65 were 15 percent less likely. And women over 75 were 60 percent less likely than men to get a shot at a new kidney. Attempting to answer why that might be, Segev says, "I think there is something either about the way the patients view themselves or the providers view the older women as more frail and less able to tolerate an operation."

Now here's the real kick in the teeth: The study also showed that after transplantation, women had survival rates equal to or better than the men's. Whether it's the patients themselves or the doctors presuming that women make poorer transplant candidates, they appear to be wrong.


By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

MORE FROM Kate Harding

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Gender Health Love And Sex