Missed Diagnoses Are Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims

A new study found that medical malpractice claims are most commonly associated with missed diagnoses of heart attack and cancer.

Irish researchers conducted the study, which appeared in BMJ Open on July 18. The researchers reviewed over 7,000 journal papers regarding medical malpractice claims, focusing on claims filed against primary care physicians, as that is who provides initial line of care to patients.

The researchers found 34 journal articles relevant to their research, from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia and Canada. The study found that the most commonly reported claims of medical malpractice were those involving missed diagnoses. Depending on the study, missed diagnoses were found to account for between 26 and 63 percent of the total. Death occurred in between 15 and 48 percent of the missed diagnosis claims.

The researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School found that heart attack and cancer were the most common missed diagnoses, followed by appendicitis, bone fractures and ectopic pregnancy. In cases involving children, cancer and meningitis were the most common missed diagnoses.

After missed diagnoses, medication errors were the most common medical malpractice claim. Such errors were seen in between 6 and 20 percent of the cases, and involved drugs including antibiotics, anticoagulants, steroids, antidepressants and antipsychotics.

The study found that the number of medical malpractice claims filed against primary care physicians in the United States has not changed significantly in the past 20 years.

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