A recent study published on the Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research website shows that low-income patients sue health care providers less often than patients of a higher economic status do. A review of litigation rates and malpractice suits among poor patients as compared to patients of greater wealth was the basis for the research.
The research has illustrated that there may be a bias by doctors in treating poor patients because of the perceived risk of litigation. Some doctors rationalize a decision for non-treatment of low-income patients because those patients may have trouble making payment for medical services. Many physicians also believe that impoverished patients are more likely to pursue legal action against the doctor or treating facility.
The stereotypical view of a person of lesser financial stature is that they are more likely to sue, but the research shows that these people have less access to the legal resources necessary to seek any type of legal action. The fact that they lack monetary funds actually means they are less likely to initiate a medical malpractice claim or other legal proceeding against a doctor.
The bias that can exist in treating or not treating low-income patients can have serious implications for the medical well-being of the patient. Health care that is below the standard of care that any other patient would receive can obviously harm the patient’s outlook and quality of life. Researchers involved with the study state that greater awareness and education on this issue would improve both patient care and doctor satisfaction.
People without financial wealth may still be able to bring successful medical malpractice lawsuits. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis where the victim does not pay unless the Bellingham lawyer helps them win their case.