Feature Archive

Ob-Gyns on Trial

Why a string of lawsuits is undermining women's confidence.

WebMD Feature

May 8, 2000 -- "I'm not blaming someone for losing the baby. I know bad things happen that are nobody's fault," says Linda, a 39-year-old mother of two. "But I am devastated over being told that I can't have another, and that is somebody's fault."

Linda's baby died during pregnancy, a tragic ending to the anticipation of welcoming a new child. But a year's worth of complications from a procedure to remove the expired fetus resulted in a hysterectomy, and therefore the loss of her fertility.

After long nights of anguish shared with her husband, the couple reluctantly decided last January to file a lawsuit against the medical team that handled her pregnancy; sadly, the defendants include the doctor who had delivered her two previous babies and in whom she had placed "tremendous trust and confidence."

Suing a trusted doctor is a nightmare for patients already suffering deeply when something goes wrong in childbirth. Yet the inherent risks to a newborn's health or to a woman's fertility have, over the years, made obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns) the doctors who are most vulnerable to lawsuits, causing an exodus from the specialty in the 1980s. Now the latest survey from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) shows that once again doctors are being driven from the practice of obstetrics by the high costs of delivering high-risk care.