Sharon Stone opens up about experiencing medical gaslighting following her 2001 stroke: 'I would have died if they had sent me home'

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sharon Stone is reflecting on the stroke that nearly killed her — and her challenging experience with medical professionals who didn't believe her symptoms were serious.

In a new interview with Vogue UK, the Oscar winner, 65, discussed her life-threatening stroke that led to a nine-day brain bleed back in 2001. But to add insult to injury, Stone says her physicians at the time believed she was feigning her condition.

"They missed it with the first angiogram and decided that I was faking it," the Basic Instinct star explained. It was only after her best friend talked them into giving her a second one that they discovered that she had been hemorrhaging into her brain. "My vertebral artery was ruptured. I would have died if they had sent me home."

Stone's experience with her physicians is commonly referred to as medical gaslighting, which is when medical professionals make patients believe their symptoms are all in their heads. Often, it can lead to a delayed diagnosis or incorrect treatment for a condition. Research has found that the experience is more common in Black people, patients with obesity, and women, Insider reported.

Stone told the magazine that she believes the dismissal of her suffering was largely aligned with her gender.

"What I learned through that experience is that in a medical setting, women often just aren’t heard, particularly when you don’t have a female doctor," she explained.

Initially given a 1% chance of survival after brain surgery, Stone's life was saved by a procedure called endovascular coiling. However, she struggled to recover and found herself stuttering, struggling to walk and suffering from bouts of depression. She said she "felt like I was getting punched" for the first couple of years of her recovery.

She credited friends like Michael J. Fox, who has spoken openly about his battle with Parkinson's Disease, and Steven Spielberg for their support and motivation during her difficult time.

"I hid my disability and was afraid to go out and didn’t want people to know," she added. "I just thought no one would accept me."

Despite her struggle, Stone is quick to point out that her disability does not define her.

"I think many people identify with their illness as 'I am this thing,' and it cannot be your identity," she told Vogue UK. "I lost so much, and I could have allowed that to define me. But you have to stand up and say, 'OK, that happened, and now what? What am I made of?'"

In her 2021 memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, Stone wrote that she thought she was going to die at the time of her stroke, and even asked her mother to rush to the hospital to "get there in time." She had a "white light" experience and felt as if she was falling as she saw people who had passed away.

“The room was so silent," she told Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY in 2021. "When the room is so silent and no one's running around trying to fix you, that's when you realize how near death is and how serious everything is."

Stone's stroke wasn't the first time she found herself in conflict with her medical team. Stone told the British newspaper the Times in 2021 that she discovered while undergoing surgery in 2001 to remove benign tumors that her surgeon increased her breast size without her consent while she was on the operating table.

When she confronted him, Stone said he told her that he "thought that I would look better with bigger, better boobs."

Despite her struggles, Stone is living her best life. She told People earlier this month that she has found a strong wellness routine to support her health, which includes eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night "so that I don't have seizures." But she also has a flourishing second career as a painter, she noted in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia that she's undergoing a personal renaissance.

"I feel like this is the most exciting and creative period of my life," she shared.