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article imageOp-Ed: To sue or not to sue? The case of Mexican gynaecology units

By Scott Tuttle     Jan 25, 2014 in Health
In the western world, seemingly outrageous lawsuits are always making headlines and leaving the people questioning whether or not something should be done with the law to make suing more difficult. But what would things be like if we did so?
To satisfy this curiosity, perhaps we need not look so far into the abstract as we might think. In fact, a little light can be shed on the subject simply by glancing over our shoulder to our southern neighbor, Mexico.
In Mexico, the litigation process is far more complicated, and rewards are typically much less than in the United States or Canada. Compared to its northern neighbors, Mexico requires far more written evidence and documentation before a plaintiff can file a complaint. A defendant must answer with a similar pile of documented evidence to complement a written response that has to be submitted to a judge, who might decide there needs to be more evidence on either or both sides before a case can proceed. There is no discovery process, and the plaintiff and defendant must pay their own court costs.
The litigation process is expensive and takes longer than in the U.S. or Canada. Thus, lawsuits are far less common.
So, what could possibly go wrong? Perhaps common medical procedures, for one. After all, the medical profession faces opportunities for errors and accidents every time a patient sets foot in a medical facility. Imagine if there were few to no consequences for malpractice. Mexican hospitals offer a vivid example as to what could happen.
Medical malpractice in Mexico is not limited to routine mistakes either. According to a recent study by Dr. Roberto Castro PĂ©rez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), pregnant women being treated in gynecological units are often victims of ridicule and verbal abuse by doctors and staff, both male and female.
Castro's study was based on over 200 testimonies by women who were given gynecological services, observations of medical facilities, interviews with doctors, and analyses on the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH). In one particular example, a doctor told a woman as she was preparing to give birth to "suck it up, you liked spreading your legs before."
In fact, between 2000 and 2012, the National Medical Arbitration Commission handled 8,277 complaints against obstetrics and gynaecology units. This number probably does not even come close to capturing the full perspective of the problem as it only includes those who bothered to file complaints, ignoring those who chose to remain silent.
Imagine if there were greater consequences. What if these doctors, who spent countless hours buried in their textbooks for the better part of a decade, faced permanently losing their medical licenses for this form of abuse? What if hospitals could be sued for millions of dollars? Do you think these doctors might decide to think twice before opening their mouths? Quite possibly so.
The kinds of excess litigation of which we so often complain might stand to offer society a greater benefit than we might realize. Before we dive head-first into changing our laws, perhaps it might be worth a moment's reflection on what we might lose in the process.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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