Medical malpractice among women: What to do when you encounter one

Are you a female victim of medical malpractice? Find out some of the most common causes of malpractice, and what your options are. 

Medical malpractice is more common than you may realise. In the US, a survey by the American Medical Association showed that 34% of doctors have been sued over allegations of medical malpractice. And 16.8% of those physicians have been served with two or more lawsuits. 

And shockingly, statistics show that as many as 10% of all deaths in the US are the result of medical error.

What is medical malpractice?

So what is medical malpractice? Medical malpractice is when a patient (or their family) takes legal action against a medical or healthcare professional because of negligence or lack of action that led to injury or death. 

Medical malpractice can involve mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management. To be medical malpractice, three things need to be proved:

  1. The treatment provided was not consistent with an accepted level of care. 
  2. The patient suffered an injury of some kind due to the negligence.
  3. The injury caused significant damages or loss, for example: disability, pain, suffering, hardship, loss of income or large medical bills.

Women are more likely to experience medical malpractice

Unfortunately, if you are a woman you are disproportionately likely to experience medical malpractice. 

A 2015 study by the Public Library of Science found that women often wait longer for a diagnosis than men. Specifically, it uncovered a ‘statistically significant’ time lapsing between the start of symptoms and a diagnosis for six out of 11 types of cancer. 

Numerous studies and articles have also revealed that when women complain about unspecific pain, their symptoms are often put down to mental illness. Which again can lead to delayed (or complete lack of) diagnosis. 

Maternal mortality and morbidity is also inexplicably high in the US when compared to other nations.

The five most common types of medical malpractice

So what are the most common types of medical malpractice? Here are five of the most frequent cases brought against medical professionals:

  1. An incorrect or delayed diagnosis
  2. Failing to treat a patient
  3. Mistakes with prescription drugs
  4. Surgical or procedural errors
  5. Childbirth injuries

Let’s look at each in turn briefly, and then explain what actions you can take if you believe that you or a relative are a victim of medical malpractice. 

1) An incorrect or delayed diagnosis

A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can lead to either a patent receiving the wrong treatment, being subjected to unnecessary treatments, or receiving treatment too late for it to be properly effective – or even to help at all. 

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can happen when a doctor or other healthcare professional fails to:

  • Identify clinical signs and symptoms
  • Order medical testing or get extra information
  • Refer the patient to a specialist

It can also happen when lab tests are mislabelled or lost, or mistakes are made conducting a test or evaluating the test data. 

Delays and errors can have a significant and devastating impact on a patient’s health and wellbeing, and even their life.

2) Failing to treat a patient

Failing to treat a patient can also have a big impact on their recovery and prognosis. 

This can include releasing a patient from hospital too early, not giving instructions for follow-up care, not ordering the right medical tests and not taking into account a patient’s medical history when prescribing them medicine or treatment.

3) Mistakes with prescription drugs

According to The Mayo Clinic, almost 70% of Americans take one or more prescription drug, and over half take two.

Given this, it’s perhaps not surprising that mistakes involving prescriptions are relatively commonplace. This can include prescribing the wrong dose of drugs, and adverse effects caused by interactions with other drugs someone is taking. 

And even if the prescription is correct, sometimes the pharmacist can fill a prescription incorrectly or misread the doctor’s handwriting. 

Given the potential danger of taking the wrong drugs, the usual settlement for a wrong prescription is quite high. The national average for settlements for incorrect prescriptions in the US is apparently between $150,000 and $300,000. And some payments even exceed $1,000,000.

4) Surgical or procedural errors

It doesn’t matter whether a patient’s surgery is emergency or elective, every medical professional in the operating room has a duty to protect the patient from harm. This includes out-patient procedures such as biopsies.

So what kind of things can go wrong during surgery or other procedures? Some of the most frequent mistakes made include:

  • Operating on the wrong part of the body or the wrong patient
  • Leaving tools, gauze and other medical devices inside a patient
  • Reactions to, or problems with, anesthesia,
  • Not following the correct medical protocols before, during, and after surgery

5) Childbirth injuries

Childbirth injuries can have a devastating impact on both the child and their family. Birth injuries can be a result of:

  • Poor prenatal care
  • The incorrect use of forceps
  • Using excessive force when delivering a baby
  • Not noticing fetal distress
  • The umbilical cord being wrapped around a baby’s mouth, nose, or neck
  • Not performing a C-section when needed
  • Mishandling a baby during or after their birth
  • Not informing the mother of prenatal health conditions before birth

What to do if you encounter medical malpractice

So if you suspect that you or a relative has been a victim of medical malpractice, what should you do? It is essential that you get the correct legal advice, so your first step should be to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. 

A good medical malpractice lawyer can help you to investigate exactly what happened in your situation, ensure you have a case of medical malpractice, identify who the liable parties are, and help you get damages for any physical and emotional injuries.

If your medical malpractice claim goes to court and your jury decides that you are a victim of gross negligence, you could also receive punitive damages.

Not only can medical malpractice claims help to recover any financial losses caused by the errors, and pay you appropriate damages, but it can also help protect other patients in future from being harmed by a negligent doctor, nurse, or even a medical facility.