Legal defense plays a very important role in the life of every midwife and other healthcare professionals. Why so? Because in midwifery, instances of litigation may occur, despite every midwife’s best effort in providing quality care. Since the relationship that is involved in every midwife to her patient/s is a situation where one person owes another a duty of care, it gets crucial when the patient get in danger. Midwife is responsible to the patient’s welfare, yet there are unavoidable things that may arise and so, every midwife must be prepared.
When a midwife does something that may cause damage, injury or loss to a patient, or even decides not to do something that also leads to damage, injury or loss of the patient, that is called “Negligence”. In law, medical malpractice is considered a specific area within the general domain of negligence. It requires four conditions (elements) be met for the plaintiff to recover damages. These conditions are: duty; breach of duty; harm; and causation. The second element, breach of duty, is synonymous with the “standard of care.”
Legally speaking, every medical practitioner, particularly midwives, are responsible for the safety of their patients and so they must perform their duty to the best of their ability. Getting sued for medical malpractice must be avoided as it is punishable by the law. To protect yourself and your practice against a malpractice lawsuit, you can use three powerful tools: documentation, compliance with policies and procedures, and malpractice insurance.
Documentation is a record of everything you do within your practice. Good documentation is key to avoiding liability, fraud, and abuse. You may be required to reimburse the money if your records don’t justify the items and services you have charged.
Compliance with policies and procedures. Maintaining compliance with HIPAA goes a long way. You want to make sure that you don’t share patient information on social media or any other source. It’s critical to practice proper HIPAA compliance standards by ensuring that you only discuss patient information with the patient, staff or authorized persons. Also, implement a strict data security system to help protect patient data.
Malpractice insurance is your sure way to go. It protects midwives and other healthcare professionals against claims alleging their negligent acts caused injury to patients. This insurance coverage protects healthcare providers against patients who file suits against them under the complaint that they were harmed by the professional’s negligence or intentionally harmful treatment decisions. Malpractice insurance also covers the death of a patient
Midwives need to actively work to avoid such issues, since a malpractice lawsuit could cause serious ruin both professionally and financially. Below we’ve detailed nine tips to help you avoid malpractice claims.
1) Document EVERYTHING
Your first line of defense against malpractice is proper documentation. Always document dates, times, events, and be extremely specific. We know you are busy, but you cannot afford to neglect documenting all your patient interactions and any actions you’ve personally taken.
Clear communication with your patients is key to avoiding misunderstandings. Make sure your patients feel comfortable communicating their thoughts, questions, and concerns to you, and make sure you give them consistent updates and attention. As with your documentation, always be as clear and specific as possible, and if you think your patient doesn’t understand something, take pains to make sure they do.
3) Know policies and standards of care
Make sure you learn the policies and regulations of the facility in which you are working and take the time to consistently update your knowledge of oft changing professional standards of care for your area of medicine.
4) Don’t get lazy
We know how busy you are. We understand how overwhelming everything can get. You still cannot let any of your duties or responsibilities lapse. This includes tedious, administrative duties and other time-consuming necessities like documenting patient interactions.
5) Ask for help
Don’t try to be a hero or be too proud to ask for help. Know your limits and do not try to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing. Your pride could cause you to make a serious mistake that could literally ruin your career.
6) ALWAYS get informed consent
You know what they say about assuming… Make sure the patient understands and consents to the actions you plan to take every single time.
7) Strive to build strong relationships with patients
A good bedside manner and going the extra mile to make a patient comfortable can go a long way towards protecting you from potential malpractice claims. Happy patients rarely seek to sue their doctors or nurses.
8) Follow up
Follow up with your patients and follow up with other specialists or professionals involved in a patient’s treatment. Have a set schedule and protocol in place for following up that you will stick to with every patient.
9) Temper expectations and don’t promise what you can’t deliver
Always be realistic with your patients and temper their expectations of what your treatment will be able to achieve for them. Making promises that you know you can’t deliver on will not be worth briefly making the patient feel better when you are facing a serious malpractice suit later.
The code of ethics and conduct for midwifery is unique. Judges who are not qualified in midwifery must decide if a midwife has acted negligently. They depend on expert opinion and make decisions based on basic principles of reasonableness, prudence and fairness.
9 tips to help healthcare professionals avoid malpractice claims and lawsuits. Trembly Law Firm – Florida Business Lawyers. (2015, September 23). Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://tremblylaw.com/9-tips-to-help-healthcare-professionals-avoid-malpractice-claims-and-lawsuits/
Kagan, J. (2022, October 27). Malpractice insurance. Investopedia. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/malpractice-insurance.asp
Staff, I. H. (2022, August 30). How to protect yourself against Malpractice: Accidents in the hospital. Incredible Health. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from https://www.incrediblehealth.com/blog/malpractice-in-hospitals/
YOUTUBE VIDEO: Malpractice Insurance and Midwifery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVb7XT9N4Qw