Litigations and the Obstetrician in Clinical Practice

Author(s): Adinma JIB

The expectation of obstetrics is a perfect outcome. Obstetrics malpractice can cause morbidity and mortality that may engender litigation. Globally, increasing trend to litigation in obstetrics practice has resulted in high indemnity cost to the obstetrician with consequent frustration and overall danger to the future of obstetrics practice. The objective was to review litigations and the Obstetrician in Clinical Practice, highlighting medical ethics, federation of gynecology and obstetrics (FIGO’s) ethical responsibility guideline on women’s sexual and reproductive health and right; examine the relationship between medical ethics and medical laws; X‑ray medical negligence and litigable obstetrics malpractices; and make recommendation towards the improvement of obstetrics practices to avert misconduct that would lead to litigation. Review involves a literature search on the internet in relevant journals, textbooks, and monographs. Knowledge and application of medical ethics are important to the obstetricians to avert medical negligence that will lead to litigation. A medical negligence can occur in any of the three triads of medicare viz: Diagnosis, advice/counseling, and treatment. Lawsuits in obstetrics generally center on errors of omission or commission especially in relation to the failure to perform caesarean section or to perform the operation early enough. Fear of litigation, high indemnity cost, and long working hours are among the main reasons given by obstetricians for ceasing obstetrics practice. Increasing global trend in litigation with high indemnity cost to the obstetrician is likely to jeopardize the future of obstetrics care especially in countries without medical insurance coverage for health practitioners. Litigation in obstetrics can be prevented through the Obstetrician’s mindfulness of its possibility; acquainting themselves of the medical laws and guidelines related to their practice; ensuring adequate communication with, and consent of patients during treatment together with proper and correct documentation of cases. The supervision of resident‑in‑training, development and implementation of obstetrics protocol, and continuing medical education of obstetricians are also important factors to the prevention of litigation in obstetrics.


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