Changes in political leadership and priorities have placed women’s healthcare at the forefront of discussion, regarding Planned Parenting and other programs aimed to help women self-manage different aspects of reproductive health. One of the most urgent concerns address access to health care services for women, and ensuring the quality of the services that are delivered.
There are several circumstances where women are the victims of medical malpractice that are specific to reproductive health, but we have identified five of the most common types of reproductive malpractice for women.
1. Maternal Injuries
In the era of modern medicine, it can be hard to remember a time when pregnancy and childbirth were considered life-threatening to both mother and child. Today, technology and training have significantly reduced injury rates for expectant mothers, both during pregnancy and labor, as well as during post-delivery care. However, instances of negligence or omitted or erroneous care result in medical malpractice suits for maternal injuries.
Maternal injuries and malpractice cases may include circumstances where:
- Doctors failed to consider pre-existing health conditions, including diabetes, high-blood pressure, or anemia as risk factors that may cause injury or complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Medical support failed to diagnose preeclampsia, epilepsy, low blood sugar, or heart impairment which may lead to exacerbating current health problems or create new ones.
Wrongful pregnancy qualifies as a maternal injury. This happens when a medical care team ineffectively sterilizes a mother (tubal ligation) and an unplanned pregnancy happens. This can also occur when a termination of pregnancy was requested but refused, or incorrectly administered, resulting in the full-term development of a child.
2. Medical Device and Prescription Injuries
One of the more prolific medical malpractice suits in North America is the class action suits lodged against manufacturers of the pelvic “sling,” a non-biological weave device that is surgically implanted in men and women to provide internal organ support.
During the aging process, abdominal muscles can weaken and loosen with time, which can lead to insufficient support of major organs including the bladder. The medical ‘sling’ was designed to replace that abdominal support; however, several manufacturer recalls due to health complications have led to liability action on behalf of women and men who have had the device installed.
Other devices that have been named in malpractice suits include:
- IUD devices (including the Mirena brand).
- Birth control medication implantation (including Implanon, a metal bar that is inserted into the arm and emits pharmaceuticals to prevent pregnancy).
- Prescription hormone therapies (which increase the risk of certain types of reproductive cancers).
In a recent case, medical products giant Johnson & Johnson ceased the manufacturing of a “morcellator device,” which was used to remove non cancerous tumors and uterine fibroids. The company began to proceed into settlement of the class action suit in October of 2016 after it was determined that the morcellator device inadvertently helped cancer cells spread to different locations of the body after surgical use.
3. Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses
All male and female breasts have the potential to develop breast cancer. The problem is that a lump in the breast can be several different things, including a benign cyst or fat deposit. When a physical sign or symptom has been detected, it is the physician’s responsibility to pursue testing to confirm or preclude a breast cancer diagnosis.
Breast cancer can rapidly spread to other organs via the lymphatic system, as lymph nodes under the arms and in the throat can spread cancer cells to other parts of the body. Physical and radiological examinations are required, but a biopsy is the only conclusive way to determine if a tumor is cancerous or benign. Unfortunately, while almost two million biopsies are conducted annually in the United States, a new study finds that less than 50 percent of them may be accurate according to expert pathologists. This can lead to under- or over-treatment, illness due to advancement of the disease, and fatalities.
4. Fertility Treatment Errors
According to one 2015 report by the Reproductive Medical Associates of New Jersey, healthy women in their thirties naturally have a less than 20 percent chance of natural conception. That factor is complicated by environmental pollutants and free radicals, stress, diet and hormones, and many other factors.
Fertility treatment errors can include multiple conceptions, where more than one egg is fertilized through in vitro methods. It can also include medical harm done through prescription drug recommendations, interactions and hormone therapies, miscarriage due to procedures, and other injuries including during egg retrieval or fertilization.
5. Reproductive Cancer Misdiagnoses
Because of the location of the female reproductive organs, which are adjacent to several lymph nodes, the early detection of reproductive cancers is essential for patient survival. Women are encouraged to have several tests, including regular examinations and culture swabs, to determine the existence of irregular cells in the uterus, vaginal walls, and cervix as a precaution.
However, reproductive cancers can lie dormant and almost undetectable in the abdominal cavity, within fallopian tubes, the ovaries, or in the bottom most lining of the endometrium. Find a medical malpractice lawyer in Stamford who has not seen a case where women have reported certain conditions which may imply reproductive cancer, only to develop cancer because of hesitant exploration by medical practitioners, or negligence in testing and diagnoses.
Do Women Feel More Confident About Female Legal Representation?
While the choice to pursue a civil liability and malpractice suit against a physician or healthcare team is personal, many women do feel a certain degree of comfort explaining the nature of the loss to a female legal professional. The Florida Bar conducted a survey of female legal professionals that confirmed in many cases that elderly clients may have a preference for female counselors, who make them feel “more comfortable.”
When it comes to female reproductive malpractice cases, clients may be far more comfortable translating their discomfort or distress to a legal professional who can be compassionate from a physiological and personal perspective.