Patient Profiling and Discrimination in West Virginia
When Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose Cause Serious Harm
Have you felt that a doctor treated you in a rude, condescending, or discriminatory manner? These behaviors may indicate that the provider’s personal bias influenced your treatment. In fact, even if you did not personally experience this type of negative behavior directly, you may have been a victim of discrimination.
The Danger of Personal Bias in Medical Care
Patient profiling by doctors and other healthcare providers may be obvious or covert, but in all cases it can pose a significant threat to the doctor-patient relationship, contribute to distrust of the medical profession, and may lead to poor healthcare outcomes. In some cases, these personal biases may result in misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose a serious condition, or play a part in causing harm which results in loss of life.
What Is Patient Profiling?
Patient profiling is the wrongful discrimination by a medical professional against an individual based on appearance, gender, race, financial status, demographic factors, or other observable characteristics.
4 Types of Patients Commonly Affected by Patient Profiling
Anyone can be wrongfully discriminated against by a doctor or healthcare professional. Unfortunately, certain classes of patients may be wrongfully assumed to be more likely/unlikely to exhibit certain types of behaviors or illnesses based on observable characteristics, rather than an objective, personalized review of the actual symptoms the patient is experiencing. These four types of patients include those with:
1. Chronic Pain
2. Mental Illness
3. Multiple Health Issues / “Invisible” Illness
4. Uninsured/Limited Financial Means
How Does Patient Profiling Affect Medical Care?
Patient profiling is not just unfair, it can cause significant harm. When a medical provider makes an unfair assumption or misjudgment about a patient, the medical care provided may be inadequate, improper, and ultimately result in misdiagnosis and/or failure to diagnose and treat a serious underlying medical condition. Unfortunately, serious disability or death may result.
Is It Medical Malpractice?
To be clear, although patient profiling is often associated with, and may contribute to, medical neglect, it is not the same as medical malpractice. When a doctor fails to exercise the same degree of care and skill required and/or expected by similar healthcare providers facing the same situation, this neglect was a proximate cause of injury or wrongful death, and it therefore limited the patient’s chances for recovery or resulted in an increased risk of harm by at least 25%, the party may be found to have committed medical malpractice according to West Virginia law.
Patients Dismissed as Drug-Seeking, Hypochondriac – and Worse
The unchecked biases of doctors and medical care providers can lead to serious negative outcomes for patients. For example, individuals suffering from chronic pain may be wrongfully profiled as having “drug-seeking behavior” or being an addict as a result of their record of seeking treatment for relief from the pain they suffer. In some cases, those with a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD listed in their medical chart may have their symptoms dismissed as being of mental origin rather than exploring an underlying physical cause (which, in many cases may actually be the reason for the mental issue itself). Additionally, a seriously ill patient with numerous health problems, an “invisible” illness (without observable physical symptoms), or a patient who has visited numerous providers over many years seeking an answer may be written off as a “hypochondriac,” or “malingering” patient. Furthermore, patients whose appearance, insurance type, or uninsured status may indicate limited financial means may not be provided adequate medical attention. Patients may also be racially profiled or treated in a discriminatory manner based on weight, clothing style, and/or a wide range of other characteristics. In these and many other types of patient profiling, a doctor may misdiagnose or fail to diagnose a serious underlying medical issue based on personal bias.
Abandoning Those Who Need Medical Care the Most
Even if a patient has a history of substance abuse disorder, mental illness, numerous comorbidities, or limited financial means, the individual can still suffer serious medical issues that may not be related to these factors at all. In fact, studies have shown that when these groups suffer serious illness, injury, and disease, their concerns are often neglected. This makes patient profiling on the part of those entrusted to provide medical treatment an especially significant issue of concern. At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we leave no stone unturned to hold at-fault parties accountable when these barbaric practices rise to the level of medical malpractice.
If a doctor’s personal biases are written into a patient’s medical record or verbally conveyed, the patient may then be wrongfully profiled by subsequent medical providers and unable to receive proper care. Despite symptoms, testing and exam results which should indicate a specific diagnosis and treatment protocol, these patients may instead be dismissed without adequate medical care. In the worst cases, patients have even been blacklisted and blatantly denied care for advocating for their own best interests. Instead of addressing the need to hold negligent doctors accountable, some within the medical community have instead chosen to punish innocent patients.
Do I Have a Case?
Patient profiling alone does not form the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit; however, this discriminatory treatment may have contributed to medical negligence. Medical malpractice law in West Virginia is a complex, dynamic field. Therefore, successful resolution of a malpractice lawsuit requires a legal team fully dedicated to the passionate pursuit of justice. At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we are ready to review the facts of your case and help you evaluate all available legal options.
Maximum Financial Compensation for WV Medical Malpractice Victims
Since 1952, the skilled personal injury attorneys at Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law have secured the maximum financial compensation for victims of medical malpractice throughout all of West Virginia. We offer exceptional legal guidance and vigilance to help ensure our clients are able to pursue the full monetary compensation allowed by law. If you or a loved one have suffered serious personal injury or death at the hands of negligent medical provider who failed to adhere to the accepted standard of care, contact our law firm immediately. Contact Angotti & Straface right away for a free initial legal consultation to discuss your case: (304) 292-4381.