Study finds missed diagnoses leading cause of malpractice claims

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Thousands of individuals in Ohio and across the United States suffer due to negligent medical care every year. In some cases, such negligence can appear in the form of medication errors, surgical mistakes and misdiagnoses. However, a recent study published in BMJ Open suggests that most medical malpractice claims are prompted by an outright failure of medical professionals to diagnose patients’ serious health conditions altogether, particularly heart disease and cancer.

The study’s authors collected and assessed over 7,150 journal papers covering the topic of medical malpractice claims from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and France, identifying and recording malpractice claims against primary care physicians. They found the failure to diagnose serious medical issues as the leading cause of claims, constituting up to 63 percent of malpractice claims depending on the specific study. The study revealed that between 15 and 48 percent of those claims blamed doctors’ failure to accurately diagnose patients to be responsible for those patients’ deaths.

The researchers noted that medical professionals most frequently failed to identify and diagnose heart attacks and cancer in adults, while doctors commonly missed diagnoses of cancer and meningitis in children. About 50 percent of all British claims included in the study resulted in a patient payout, compared to roughly one third in the United States.

A number of medical organizations have attempted to reduce the number of malpractice claims in recent years by encouraging patients to educate themselves on common tests and question whether their physicians are recommending effective tests and treatments, appropriately backed by evidence. Likewise, one medical expert and former oncologist advised prospective patients to be vigilant in tracking their health regardless of doctors’ diagnoses, returning to a hospital if they perceive a potential problem.

Ohio residents who believed they have been harmed due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer, heart disease or another serious medical condition should contact a qualified attorney to determine if a medical malpractice claim could benefit them.

Source: 
CBS News, “Most common medical malpractice claims for missed cancer, heart attacks” Ryan Jaslow, Jul. 19, 2013

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