The Pursuit of Autonomy: Healthcare Infrastructure and its Effects on the Autonomy of Women

Updated: Jan 4


Autonomy is considered to be one of the irrevocable rights we hold as human beings. The capacity of an individual to make their own independent decision on matters of health and prosperity is the cornerstone of a developed society. In this regard, the healthcare infrastructure internationally has failed women in protecting their right to make educated, autonomous decisions. From the ancient societies that viewed women to be “deformed variation of men” to women being viewed simply as instruments of child rearing, the basis of women’s health is founded solely around their fertility which has and continues to hold back the healthcare system in providing adequate care. This issue intersects with other variables such as race, religion, and class depending on each country; however, the common denominator is that the women globally suffer due to the lack of understanding and importance placed on women’s health.

Fundamentals of women’s health and the challenges

As aforementioned, historically, most if not all the importance in women’s health has been focused on reproductive health. Though this is a critical aspect of women’s health, there are other factors that must be considered in creating an effective healthcare infrastructure that is able to cater to women. One of the primary shortcomings we are faced with is the lack of research in the metabolizing effects of most commonplace medication in women. Until the 1990’s, women of child rearing age in the United States were not able to participate in drug trials for the fear that their hormone fluctuations would interfere with the data.

A prominent case study was the frequent incidents of women experiencing adverse side effects to the sleeping pill Ambien (Zolpidem). Incidents that ranged anywhere from sleep eating to waking up behind the wheel with no recollection of how they got there. After many such cases, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that women should only consume half the recommended dosage. This announcement came in 2013 whereas the drug had been approved for use by the FDA in the United States since 1992. The hesitance to study the gendered difference in the effects of important medications persists in modern times as well due to the simple fact that it is inconvenient. Increasingly, there has been collective initiative demanded by women that seek to raise awareness of this disparity and ask for greater transparency in the data collected from clinical trials.

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December, 2021

Devika Panicker

Univeristy of Toronto Policython