Older adults can be more at risk of negligence due to ageism

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Medical professionals must base treatment on each patient’s unique needs. This means treating the individual, not just considering their age. But, there are instances when doctors may unintentionally provide less than the needed care to older adults. This can happen if doctors assume some treatment plans might not suit older patients because they are “too old.”

This is a form of ageism, and it can put seniors at risk.

Why ageism in health care exists

Ageism in health care may be due to limited education and comprehensive training in elder care. Many doctors have experience in treating common conditions like heart disease or diabetes. But, they often don’t learn enough about geriatrics throughout their medical curriculum.

This education gap can lead to misunderstandings about the unique health needs of older patients. It can also lead to less-than-ideal care decisions.

Medical risks to discrimination

Age-based discrimination in health care can lead to both injurious overtreatment and undertreatment. When doctors assume that vulnerable patients need more medications or procedures, they risk overtreatment. Any misjudgment in dosage or unnecessary operation can cause these patients to suffer from the side effects. Conversely, undertreatment occurs when doctors decide a patient is too old for certain treatments. They make these decisions based on age alone, not considering the patient’s health and priorities.

These age-based assumptions can be harmful. Doctors should aim to find a balance, avoiding both overtreatment and undertreatment. If they fail to do so, they risk facing potential medical malpractice charges.

Help after medical negligence

Discrimination in health care can be dangerous, especially when certain assumptions negatively affect older patients. Medical professionals should remember that no patient is ever ‘too old’ to receive the care they need and deserve and that it’s crucial to base medical decisions on health needs, not age. Ignoring this can lead to harmful overtreatment, undertreatment and even medical malpractice charges.

Individuals who believe they or a loved one have experienced medical malpractice due to ageism should consult an attorney. A legal professional can review the specifics of the case, determine if there’s a valid claim and guide the victim through the legal process in Missouri.


FindLaw Network