Tokyo Medical University’s systematic downgrading of female applicants’ test scores is a national and international scandal, an outrage against women while government policy officially encourages women to “shine.” That’s how most media see it. Shukan Gendai (Sept 8) suggests a different perspective. Acknowledging the outrage, it nonetheless finds that the university has a point. Male doctors do, it says, inspire more confidence in patients. And women doctors do, it claims in support of the university’s self-justification, quit the profession in large numbers, throwing a badly overstrained health care system into further disarray.
Its evidence as to patients’ feelings is thin. Exhibit A is as far as it gets, and this is an unnamed male patient in his 50s, hospitalized for a hernia. His doctor, male, one day was unable to make his rounds and was replaced on that occasion by a woman. “My first thought,” says the patient, “was, does she know what she’s doing?” She seemed to, and everything went well. Still, “I couldn’t help being slightly uneasy.”
That’s his problem, one might well reply. But Shukan Gendai says the feeling is quite general, among young patients and old, male and female. It insists it is not defending the university, whose underhanded procedures upended the careers of untold numbers of women over 10 or so years. The patient doesn’t defend it either. “When I first heard the news, I thought, ‘Terrible – what if it had been my daughter?’ But as a patient,” he adds, “I can’t help feeling that men make more suitable doctors.”
More substantial than vague unease is the issue of whether women doctors can cope with current working conditions. They are, as Shukan Gendai and its sources describe them, very arduous. The system as society ages is badly overstrained. Hospitals are short-staffed, often desperately. A doctor might be on call 24 hours at a time. Night shifts are grim enough, but when you can’t even go home after your shift ends, it calls for endurance that female surgeon Rumiko Inoue, for one, doubts many women have – especially those raising children.
Speaking of surgeons, very few (5.7 percent) are women – possibly in part because the system is stacked against them, but also because few women choose that particularly demanding branch of the profession. Would more women doctors lead to an aggravated shortage of surgeons?
Then there’s the question of women doctors quitting, either to give birth or for other reasons. As of 2014, 86 percent did within 10 years, according to the Japan Medical Association. Many return to work afterwards, but for the most part only on a part-time basis.
Other matters aside, Shukan Gendai suggests, some professions are naturally suited to one gender or the other. Sushi chefs, for instance, are overwhelmingly male. The medical profession may be another example of that sort of thing. Or, alternatively, both may be the result less of natural capacity than of ingrained social bias. No doubt there is a plethora of arguments on both sides of that fraught issue.© Japan Today