What Do American Women Need To Know About Medical Malpractice?

What Do American Women Need To Know About Medical Malpractice?


According to Stamford medical malpractice lawyers, many women feel uncertain of their rights when it comes to medical malpractice. A hesitancy to object, ask questions, or assert patients’ rights is an obstacle and a sociological tendency for women who receive healthcare services – regardless of whether the practitioner is male or female – according to surveys and data.

Are women generally “too polite” to pursue action after they have been the victim of a suspected instance of medical malpractice? Or do women feel that their grievances will not be taken seriously? This may be part of the hesitancy to report, as gender stereotypes have been confirmed as a threat to quality care and health advocacy for women in the United States.

In this article, we will discuss the prevalence of medical malpractice, specific to healthcare services provided for women, and how patients can act to protect their health by thoroughly vetting doctors and specialists before treatment.

How Often Does Medical Malpractice Occur in the US?

An interesting survey was conducted by Medscape and released in January, 2016, titled “Top Reasons Doctors Get Sued: Obstetrics/Gynecology”. In the survey, Medscape interviewed 4,000 physicians, which included practitioners in the areas of obstetrics and gynecology, to understand factors that contributed to negligence and malpractice suits.

The findings were consistent with other reports and data, and revealed that:

  • Around 89 percent of OB/GYNs sued for malpractice were male, versus 81 percent among female practitioners.
  • In single care provider suits, 22 percent of those charged with malpractice were male, and 12 percent were female.
  • Obstetrics and gynecological care providers had the highest rate of being sued for medical malpractice as compared to other specialties, including orthopedists and general surgeons.

Medical malpractice cases for OB/GYN providers is more prevalent in certain states, according to an earlier survey and data review in 2013 by Medscape; overall, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) reported that 77.3 percent of fellows had been sued. The problem in specialty is so prolific that the ACOG reported fear of litigation was an obstacle to recruiting new medical professionals to OB/GYN services. What this also implies is that, statistically, women may be more prone to becoming the victim of medical negligence and malpractice in the United States.

Doctors Charged with Malpractice Are Frequently Serial Offenders

The relationship between a patient and a doctor, if it is long-term, can be more like a friendship. When something goes wrong, patients may be less likely to act against their family physician due to personal guilt. They trust and feel comfortable with their family physician, and feel conflicted about the need to report a case of malpractice and pursue legal action.

According to a report released by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016, only one percent of doctors were found guilty of medical malpractice in more than 32 percent of total cases in the United States. The data was gleaned from the U.S. National Practitioner Data Bank, which documents all cases of medical malpractice committed by American doctors.

What was more disturbing about the data was a statistical prevalence to re-offend. For instance, a doctor who had gone through one medical malpractice charge and had been forced to pay a settlement also had an exponentially higher probability of being involved in future medical malpractice cases. The report indicated that doctors who had settled at least two malpractice cases were found to have more than double the risk of reoffending in the future, and placing patient lives in jeopardy.

The most frightening trend revealed that the doctors with the highest risk of malpractice (those who had six or more paid settlements) were more than 12 times more likely to commit another error, resulting in a charge of malpractice in the future. In the report, male doctors were found to be 40 percent more likely to commit malpractice than female practitioners.

Protecting Your Health by Vetting Your Healthcare Providers

In the course of daily living, we background check people who watch our children, house and pets; employers and employees; and sometimes even the people we date. However, patients (especially women) have an innate trust of medical care professionals and do not feel the need to research their performance. We assume that if they have been referred by a family friend or relative, they are safe.

The problem is that the assumption is fundamentally incorrect. Doctors are human beings and subject to the same flaws, weaknesses, and errors in judgement that other professionals experience. They are not immune to disorganization, lack of continued education and retraining, or other caveats that can significantly impact the quality of service they provide to their patients. The truth is that patients do not think about a background check for their doctor, but they should.

The best place to start if you are curious about your current physician, or if you are looking at new family doctor or care provider, is with the college of physicians in the state where you reside. The American College of Physicians website offers resources for patients and practitioners. The National Practitioner Database (NPD) provides accurate, updated information on problems, legal infractions, and instances of malpractice for American doctors. Patients can also sign up for alerts about physicians in their areas, regarding charges of malpractice, through the NPD site.

It is important to remember that every patient has the right to question and check the credentials and practice history of their physician. If a practitioner has a record of malpractice and negligent care, it is important for patients to be aware of the increased risk they face, while under the supervision of the physician (particularly as statistics demonstrate a prevalence for repeated negligence). Protect your family and your own personal health by remaining informed and by reporting cases of malpractice when they occur.