Fear of lawsuits keeps physicians away from obstetrics

September 1, 2004



Concerns about medical malpractice claims and skyrocketing liability insurance costs are causing ob/gyns to change the way they practice, says a national survey of ACOG members.

According to the survey, the risk of liability claims has caused ACOG Fellows to decrease their participation in high-risk obstetric care by 22%, stop performing vaginal births after Cesarean births (14.8%), and stop practicing obstetrics altogether (14%). In addition, respondents cited the lack of affordable medical malpractice insurance as the reason they've cut back on providing high-risk obstetric care (25.2%), gynecologic surgical procedures (14.8%), and deliveries (12.2%).

The survey also found that ob/gyns faced more obstetric claims (61%) than gynecologic claims (38%). The most frequently cited obstetric claims involved neurologically impaired infants (34%), followed by stillbirths or neonatal death (15%). The most frequently cited gynecologic claims involved a delay or failure to diagnose (29%), followed by major and minor patient injury (25% and 15%, respectively).

On the brighter side, almost half of all claims against ob/gyns are dropped, dismissed, or settled without payment. Of the cases that do wind up in court, judgments are made in favor of the ob/gyn 8 out of 10 times.