Women’s health is important to maintain for the overall wellbeing of our society, but medical negligence is fast becoming a hidden epidemic that causes grief and distressing injuries for many people. Women, in particular, are excessively affected, with the value of obstetric and gynaecological medical negligence claims making up over a third of the medical negligence claims made in 2013 and 2014. But is the true magnitude of this issue hidden by the fact that women are more likely to put on a brave face and keep quiet about their discomfort?
The primary type of medical negligence that affects women relates to obstetric and gynaecological procedures. The first category of medical negligence claims are those relating to any injuries to the mother or child during pregnancy or delivery.
There are a number of conditions that (though rare) can occur throughout pregnancy that pose a risk to the mother. One of the most well-known is pre-eclampsia, where the placenta becomes toxic. The primary way of testing for pre-eclampsia is by measuring the amount of protein in the mother’s urine, and by testing her blood pressure for elevation. Pre-eclampsia can have serious and fatal consequences for both mother and baby, including seizures during the delivery that can leave permanent injuries. Failure to diagnose it is one of the primary ways in which a pregnant woman can be subject to medical negligence during her pregnancy and delivery. It is a common condition that is relatively simple to diagnose, and should be taken seriously by medical professionals.
A pregnant mother may also be at risk immediately after delivery. After the delivery of the baby, maternal haemorrhage is a common occurrence that can be prevented by the injection of artificial hormones. Medical negligence can occur if the practitioner negligently fails to control excessive maternal blood loss post-delivery.
A woman whose son suffered brain damage during childbirth won £5.25 million in court this year, after medical professionals failed to advise her about having a caesarean section due to her son becoming stuck during childbirth. He was stuck for 12 minutes, and suffered oxygen deprivation to his brain. Her lawyer noted that the case was “almost certainly the most significant medical negligence judgement in 30 years, a momentous decision which will affect the doctor-patient relationship throughout the UK.”
There are also a number of cases in which various cancers have been failed to be detected. In relation to ovarian cancer, medical negligence poses a serious danger. If the healthcare service is negligent, this could cause a delay in finding the cancer, which could cost the patient their life. Women are often very reluctant to go to the doctor in the first place, and nearly 17% of women waited over a month to see their GP after spotting their first symptom. Despite this, in many cases the health provider is completely at fault for failing to respond quickly and efficiently: in one case this year a Maine woman was awarded $7.65 million after a jury ruled that the hospital technician was at fault for failing to diagnose her cervical cancer. She was given yearly cervical checks and complained of pain from 2008 to 2011, yet she was diagnosed with cervical cancer that was found to have been there (and undiscovered) since 2008.
Medical negligence can leave you feeling angry and alone, and you may feel like you don’t know who to trust with your problem. If any of these situations have happened to you (or do happen to you in the future) don’t just stay quiet. 64% of people that have been injured by medical negligence are reluctant to make a claim, and many wait more than a year to do so. If you have any concerns or feel that you have been wronged, speak to a lawyer about making a claim for medical negligence against the practitioner that has caused harm to you or a member of your family.