Women are being subject to medically negligent decisions around the globe, in all manner of procedures and failures of medical providers. Women are disproportionately affected by medical negligence, but they are also unfortunately more likely to keep quiet about it. Medical negligence is a serious problem, and there are legal avenues that you can take if you have been provided with substandard care from your health professional.
Women’s Health Risk Areas
Women are more at risk of being exposed to medical negligence due to the higher likelihood of being hospitalised because of pregnancy, childbirth, and abortion. There are a number of risks that can arise throughout pregnancy, during childbirth, or after childbirth, that affect women alone. If a woman is not provided with adequate care in relation to these risk factors, she may suffer long term injury or pain.
Two of the primary risks during pregnancy and childbirth are pre-eclampsia and haemorrhage. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can form during pregnancy where the placenta becomes toxic and begins to reduce the oxygen supply to both mother and baby, as well as causing an immune system response and high blood pressure for the mother. Pre-eclampsia can cause seizures for the mother, and can be fatal for the baby. Pre-eclampsia is relatively easy to diagnose, as all pregnant women should have their blood pressure monitored throughout pregnancy. Another symptom is increased protein output in the urine, which can be measured by way of a dipstick test. By overlooking these simple tests, a practitioner can be medically negligent when undertaking the care of the pregnant mother and her child. Pre-eclampsia is the most common complication in pregnancy, and should be diagnosed in routine appointments – in a situation such as this, a legal claim for medical negligence for failing to diagnose should be made.
During and after childbirth, the mother is susceptible to haemorrhage as the placenta comes away from the uterine wall. Excessive bleeding can be prevented by the injection of artificial hormones – if this does not occur, the practitioner may not be taking due care and may also be subject to a medical negligence claim.
Another area of care that only affects women is the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is detected by way of a pap smear (where cells are scraped from the cervix and then analysed for abnormality). In 2013, a 55 year old grandmother died of cervical cancer after her GP misdiagnosed her symptoms as menopause. Her bereaved family received a significant pay-out from the GP’s insurer, after suing for medical negligence.
Medical Negligence Disproportionately Affects Women Worldwide
Medical negligence is not something that is confined to a specific geographic location or jurisdiction, either. In New Zealand, the Cartwright Enquiry revealed that Associate Professor Herbert Green, a gynaecology and obstetrics specialist, had been intentionally undertreating women with cervical cancer and experimenting on his patients without consent. Twenty four of the women he undertreated died of cervical cancer, and after the investigation the Medical Council of New Zealand upheld charges against three Professors who were involved in the experiment (Associate Professor Green was not charged as by the time the investigation took place he was deemed unfit).
In India, the BBC and Oxfam reported on unnecessary hysterectomies being performed on women under 30. Due to ongoing gynaecological issues with women living in poverty, Indian medical professionals took the approach that hysterectomy could end difficulties with menstruation and pregnancy related complications. This kind of action in the UK would undoubtedly be viewed as negligent.
Women Keeping Quiet
Because the majority of medical negligence affects women, more complaints do come from women. Despite this, women are more likely to keep quiet about ongoing injury or pain resulting from botched surgery or (in particular) childbirth, due to taboos about speaking up. During childbirth, many women are injured by interventions such as episiotomies, or face complications during caesarean sections. These injuries can cause pain during sex, or result in permanent incontinence for these women, both of which are viewed as shameful or taboo topics.
If you have been injured by medical negligence, make sure you don’t keep quiet. Speak up, and contact a lawyer. Many lawyers will operate on a “no win no fee” basis, so that you only have to pay if you are successful in your case. It’s important to speak boldly on these issues so that other women who may be under the same care are not affected by the same mistakes.
Medical negligence is a serious issue, affecting women around the world. There are numerous cases in the UK alone, and women need to make sure that they don’t just bite their tongue when they are harmed by a medical provider: speak up, speak out, and take legal action so that negligent medical providers are held accountable.