Every pregnancy carries the risk of complications, but OBGYN malpractice further increases these risks. Mothers and babies may suffer severe injuries or even death due to negligence or misconduct on the part of obstetricians and other medical staff. Obstetricians in the United States are sued more often than any other medical professionals other than neurosurgeons. According to a survey done by the American Medical Association, approximately 70 percent of obstetricians have been sued at least once.
Types of OBGYN Malpractice
Incidents which may constitute OBGYN malpractice include:
- Failure to perform necessary surgery, especially cesarean sections
- Failure to diagnose medical conditions
- Improperly performed surgeries
- Performing unnecessary surgeries
- Failure to thoroughly examine patients
- Misdiagnosis of a condition
Results of OBGYN Malpractice
Negligence or malpractice on the part of any medical professional when caring for an expectant mother or while delivering a baby can cause permanent damage to both the mother and the baby. Mothers are at a high risk for infection and injury when delivering a baby, especially if complications arise during the delivery process. Babies are at a high risk for injuries that may cause permanent damage while being delivered.
Injuries due to delivery errors that may cause severe and permanent damage to babies include:
- Brain damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Broken bones
- Shoulder dystocia
- Internal bleeding
- Nerve damage
Malpractice during Pregnancy
Malpractice in the form of misdiagnosis or improper recommendations can also take place during pregnancy. Doctors may fail to thoroughly examine or assess results of screening tests and may overlook or misinterpret conditions that may cause harm to the mother or child. This type of malpractice may result in labor complications that could have been avoided.
Malpractice Lawsuits Effect
Unfortunately, many OBGYN offices have become wary of lawsuits, and may put avoiding a lawsuit above the best interests of a patient. Physicians may recommend induced labor and surgery, as these recommendations may be seen by a court of law as action taken to avoid delivery complications. These types of non-medical based decisions may also be considered a form of malpractice, however, as the recommendations may put patients at unnecessary risk.
Increase in Cesarean Sections
In 2007, almost one third of all babies were delivered by cesarean section, compared to approximately five percent of babies delivered by cesarean section in the 1960s. Physicians may recommend a cesarean section if there is even a slight chance of complications in order to avoid a lawsuit. This may expose expectant mothers to needless risks presented by an unnecessary surgery.
Decline in Obstetricians
In reaction to the high rate of OBGYN malpractice lawsuits, many medical professionals may opt not to go into the field of obstetrics. In recent years, the number of physicians entering into the OBGYN field has declined, which may cause a shortage of qualified personnel. This declining rate of trained obstetricians may make OBGYN negligence more common as hospitals face staffing shortages.
Avoiding OBGYN Malpractice
In order to avoid complications and situations which may result in OBGYN malpractice, patients should discuss all concerns with health professionals. Seeking a second opinion may help to avoid followingrecommendations that have been given in order to prevent a lawsuit or as a result of inexperience or lack of training. Patients may also wish to research any recommendations given prior to delivery, especially if the medical necessity of the recommendation is in question.
Handling OBGYN Malpractice
Patients that have been harmed or have children affected by OBGYN malpractice may benefit from consulting with an attorney. An attorney will be able to evaluate the case and determine whether the OBGYN office or staff members can be held liable for the injury or condition. An attorney will also be able to provide advice about gathering evidence to support the OBGYN malpractice claim and provide a time frame in which the claim must be filed to comply with statute of limitations laws.
“Physician/Hospital Engagement.” American Medical Association. American Medical Association, n.d. Web. 30 Mar 2014. <http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/legal-topics/physician-hospital-engagement.page>
Yang, Tony, and Michelle Mello. “Relationship Between Malpractice Litigation Pressure and Rates of Cesarean Section and Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section.” PMC. 47(2).May (2011): 234-242. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096673/?tool=pubmed>