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Medical gaslighting and malpractice: What to know

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

When you have health issues, the relationship you build with your physician is critical to your recovery. 

It’s hard to have a good patient-physician relationship, however, when your doctor gaslights you. Medical gaslighting has become a hot topic of conversation both inside medical circles and without, as more people become aware of this disturbing phenomenon.

What is medical gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting occurs when doctors, physician assistants and other health care providers downplay, dismiss or otherwise invalidate what their patients are saying until, ultimately, the patient starts to question their own reality. 

Medical gaslighting largely comes from either ego or bias (or a combination of the two). Sometimes a patient presents with subjective symptoms that don’t show up on lab tests. When a doctor can’t figure out the appropriate diagnosis, they may simply decide that the patient’s condition is purely psychological. There are numerous reports of patients with real medical conditions being falsely accused of Munchausen Syndrome (or Munchausen by Proxy, in the case of parents with sick children). 

Or, a doctor may have preconceived notions about a certain subgroup of patients that make them disinclined to believe a patient’s word. For example, they may offer a wealthy White patient a battery of tests when they complain of intractable pain, but decide that a low-income Black person’s similar complaint is just “drug-seeking” due to a class and racial bias that influences their thinking.

Medical gaslighting can easily lead to a delayed diagnosis, especially if a patient gives up trying to find care because they’ve been told “it’s all in their head.” If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, find out more about your legal options.


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