Malpractice Lawsuits Over Denied Abortion Care May Be on the Horizon

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Health

A year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many physicians and hospitals in the states that have restricted abortion reportedly are refusing to end the pregnancies of women facing health-threatening complications out of fear they might face criminal prosecution or loss of their medical license.

Some experts predict those providers could soon face a new legal threat: medical malpractice lawsuits alleging they harmed patients by failing to provide timely, necessary abortion care.

“We will absolutely see medical malpractice cases emerge,” said Diana Nordlund, an emergency physician in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and former malpractice defense attorney, who chairs the Medical-Legal Committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians. When physicians decide not to provide treatments widely accepted as the standard of care because of these new laws, “that’s perceived as substandard care and there is increased civil liability.”

To some physicians and malpractice attorneys, the question is when — not if — a pregnant patient will die from lack of care and set the stage for a big-dollar wrongful death claim. Abortion rights supporters said such a case could pressure doctors and hospitals to provide appropriate abortion care, counterbalancing their fears of running afoul of state abortion bans, many of which call for criminal prosecution and revocation of medical licenses as punishment for violations.

“If we want to encourage proper care, there has to be some sort of counter-risk to …

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