Medical gaslighting can be the cause of medical malpractice when it causes harm to a patient. The term “gaslight” is based on the 1944 film noir of the same name. In Gaslight, a husband with sights on his wife’s fortune began to convince her that she was going crazy by turning down the gaslight (among other things) and denying it had happened. “Gaslighting” came to refer to the deliberate attempt to influence another’s perception of reality, deny the person’s experiences, and convince the victim that everything is the victim’s own fault or all in his or her head.
The use of the term has since broadened to refer to unintentional, dismissive, or arrogant behavior that has the same effect, leaving the victim confused, distressed, and filled with self-doubt. In the case of medical gaslighting, it can also leave the victim with a serious medical condition that worsens because of being dismissed by a medical professional.
Most of us defer to the perceived superior knowledge of a healthcare professional and can easily be convinced that what we feel is normal, or that we are exaggerating our symptoms. The doctor doesn’t necessarily have to say this; a careless attitude when the patient explains his symptoms can cause the patient to think it’s not really a big deal, even though it really feels like a big deal to the patient.