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Why Patients With Disabilities Are At Greater Risk Of Medical Malpractice

On Behalf of | May 7, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Someone with a disability might assume that one of the last places they’d suffer discrimination and inability or unwillingness to accommodate them would be a healthcare setting like a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, as many disabled patients have learned, that’s not the case.

Even more disturbing may be the way some doctors talk about disabled patients when they’re anonymous. That was the setting for part of a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs.

Focus groups of doctors yielded some disturbing admissions

Researchers discussed the challenges presented by disabled patients with focus groups comprised of physicians. Multiple doctors said that they found ways of avoiding treating them without risking a discrimination lawsuit, including telling them they no longer practiced medicine.

Those disabled patients who make it into the office sometimes don’t get farther than the weigh-in process. Doctors in the focus groups confessed to sending patients in wheelchairs to get weighed at a grain elevator, cattle processing plant or zoo. The doctors’ admissions are confirmed by anecdotal patient stories. One man said he’s been told by doctors, “I really don’t know what to do with you. Maybe you should go elsewhere.”

It’s not just patients with mobility restrictions that doctors may consider problematic. One complained that he had to pay a sign language interpreter to come in whenever he saw a deaf patient.

Disabled patients may be misdiagnosed based on false assumptions

People with disabilities need preventative health care and treatment for medical conditions that have nothing to do with their disabilities. Unfortunately, some doctors seem incapable of providing that. Some may attribute virtually any symptom a patient presents with to their disability, whether should be or not.

They may not consider certain diagnoses because of misconceptions they have about disabled people. In the Oscar-nominated documentary Crip Camp, a woman with cerebral palsy says that a surgeon removed her healthy appendix because it didn’t occur to him that her symptoms were caused by a venereal disease.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to the negligence of a doctor, it’s wise to determine whether you have grounds to file a medical malpractice case. Seeking experienced guidance can be a good first step toward securing justice and compensation.