Have Obstetrical Practice Patterns Changed Due to the Impact of Medical Malpractice Claims?

Serious injuries to infants and mothers may occur as the result of medical errors during labor, delivery, prenatal testing, or neo-natal care. Not only are obstetrical malpractice cases heartbreaking for plaintiffs and their families, they are also extremely complex. In fact, their complexity has influenced obstetrical practice patterns.

A Physician’s Risk for Medical Malpractice Claims

 Obstetricians face the second highest amount of medical malpractice claims, just after neurosurgeons. According to a survey by the American Medical Association, 70% of obstetricians have been sued at least once for medical negligence.

A Doctor’s Cost

Most doctors have medical malpractice insurance that will cover court fees and possible settlement amounts. Additionally, not every claim will result in a payment to the plaintiff. However, a lawsuit can still be time-consuming and cost a physician their credibility. Some healthcare providers reported spending so much time in court and preparing for trial that they were unable to continue their practice during that period. Furthermore, obstetricians must report all claim payouts to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Practitioner’s Data Bank, which hiring hospitals and government agencies can access.

Does Added Risk Change Behavior?

According to an article by Health Services Research, obstetricians performed 6 fewer inpatient deliveries on average in the years after their medical malpractice claim closed. Physicians who faced negligence damages amounts of $250,000 or more performed 14 fewer deliveries on average per year.

Although medical malpractice claims lead to a small reduction in deliveries for obstetricians, they do not have a notable impact on patterns of C-sections. In addition to reducing the number deliveries performed, some OB/GYNs are moving their practice to another state or jurisdiction due to liability concerns.

The risk of a medical malpractice claim may lead some obstetricians to communicate better and spend more time with their patients, but it can also cause them to withhold information. According to a 2012 Health Affairs survey, one-fifth of doctors avoided telling their patients about serious medical errors they had made in the previous year for fear of being sued, and one-tenth told their patients information that was simply untrue.

In a 2015 Medscape Malpractice report, 51% of physicians who reported being sued said that they had used the standard of care when treating the plaintiff and would not have changed anything. 19% said that they would have used better documentation.

Oregon Obstetricians

 In Oregon, the likelihood of medical malpractice claims against physicians appears to be associated with the length of the office visit. According to PubMed Central, doctors with one or less negligence claims during their career have longer routine visits than those who have faced two or more medical malpractice claims. Additionally, patients of obstetricians with a record of medical malpractice reported that they felt rushed during their doctor’s appointment.

In May of 2017, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that patients can file medical malpractice cases not only for injuries but when negligent care denies them proper treatment, giving patients more rights. Physician groups argued that this ruling would lead to more negligence claims, driving up the costs of medical malpractice insurance.

If you or your child were injured by a healthcare provider during labor or delivery, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Miller & Wagner can help you navigate your claim. To find out whether you may be able to collect damages payments for obstetric malpractice, contact Miller & Wagner for a free consultation.