Congratulations on your new baby–please don’t sue me

The Ob/Gyns who lectured me in medical school ALL mentioned malpractice or using clinical guidelines because you have to be able to justify yourself legally at some point in their lectures. All OB residents at the hospital were required to attend a malpractice case at some point in their training because they’ll be sued on average three times in their career. I know malpractice suits happen to everyone, but the Ob/Gyns take it really seriously.

The well-filmed documentary “Freedom for Birth” raises some interesting questions about the toxic consequences of malpractice. One of the major arguments of this movie is that in the doctor-pregnant patient relationship, the doctor wants to “force” women to do things they don’t want to do, like get c-sections.

It’s terrifying that the doctors can actually threaten Child Services on women who don’t give consent, but consider this from the doctor’s POV: if they don’t take the route with the highest promise of a good outcome, the mother could sue for poor birth outcome, if not now, then several years down the road.

Malpractice varies by state: some places have great malpractice rates and lenient policies, while other places are avoided like the plague. A really interesting article that warns residents that they, too, are liable to being named in malpractice cases. That’s really scary, because you’re not even an attending, and you could have the equivalent of a scarlet letter on your record.

I think the movie doesn’t appreciate the incredible amount of pressure that doctors are under from the hospital AND the patients they are trying to help. It also doesn’t offer solutions for how we might give future OBs more experience with natural births and home births outside the hospital, because the curriculum is pretty constrained already.

Malpractice suits destroy careers and render useless years of training and the chance that that OB could ever help other women deliver, because of a single case. The OB oftentimes has multiple patients in labor at the same time, and even if there are midwives and residents and nurses assisting, is LEGALLY responsible for whatever happens to mother and baby in the hospital.


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