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When your reproductive healthcare goes wrong

We live at an age where women’s healthcare should be at its best. But a disproportionate number of medical errors and complications still occur. Some women will end up with real harm, or even death. There is still more to do to ensure better outcomes and safety. And processes must always be in place to redress matters when things go wrong.

The chances of you as an individual ever suffering any harm during your medical encounters is very slim. But nevertheless things can and do go wrong. Some mishaps may only have transient and inconsequential effects. You may for example get the wrong medication prescribed, or the wrong dosage. If it was just a minor ailment, and simple meds, you may not suffer any real harm.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may end up maimed for life after a botched surgical procedure for a seemingly innocuous reason. If pregnant, complications may arise, which might end up being compounded by sub-optimal care. You may end up losing your unborn baby. At worst, you may even end up dead.

You might ask why women’s healthcare is associated with poor outcomes. It’s mostly to do with processes, rather than individual healthcare team members. Your healthcare journey has multiple steps, spanning from consultations to several tests, prescriptions, surgical procedures, and much more. Each of the steps involve intricate interactions with human-directed processes. One misstep and something goes wrong. May be a wrongly interpreted result, malfunctioned instruments, or at times incompetent staff members. Sometimes there may be inexplicable delays in instituting appropriate care.

You have a role to play to ensure the best outcomes for your own healthcare. Always strive to seek medical care where quality comes as standard. Make sure you completely understand everything that gets recommended. Ask questions, and be clear about risks and complications before consenting for any procedures. If any doubt arises about the quality of your care, bring the matter up immediately. Or seek care elsewhere.

If something does go wrong eventually, your healthcare providers owe you some sort of redress. You should at the very least get a detailed explanation. You may wish to know what pre-emptive measures could have been put in place. It may be that everything was done right, but some gaps in your care may also be apparent. You may have suffered grievous harm, necessitating some form of compensation. But matters may come to a head, compelling you to seek redress through other channels. In such cases, you may seek redress with the medical licensing authorities, or engage a medical lawyer to act on your behalf.

Sub-optimal care still occurs, and many factors are at play. The goal of women’s healthcare providers should be to ensure the best outcomes for every woman, and to take steps to eliminate any hindrance to optimal outcomes.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility

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