Evidence-based medicine and women: do the principles and practice of EBM further women's health?

Bioethics. 2004;18(1):50-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2004.00378.x.


Clinicians and policy makers the world over are embracing evidence-based medicine (EBM). The promise of EBM is to use summaries of research evidence to determine which healthcare interventions are effective and which are not, so that patients may benefit from effective interventions and be protected from useless or harmful ones. EBM provides an ostensibly rational objective means of deciding whether or not an intervention should be provided on the basis of its effectiveness, in theory leading to fair and effective healthcare for all. In this paper I closely examine these claims from the perspective of healthcare for women, using relevant examples. I argue that the current processes of evidence-based medicine contain a number of biases against women. These biases occur in the production of research that informs evidence-based medicine, in the methods used to analyse and synthesise the evidence, and in the application of EBM through the use of guidelines. Finally, the biomedical model of health that underpins most of the medical research used by EBM ignores the social and political context which contributes so much to the ill-health of women.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • Prejudice
  • Research Subjects
  • Sex Factors
  • Women's Health*