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Medical malpractice claims are often linked to misdiagnoses

When we go to the hospital with a medical emergency, we expect that the doctors working there will be able to at least figure out what is causing our medical problems. Unfortunately, we may be expecting too much.

In fact, a report issued last month found that diagnosis problems/mistakes were linked to roughly one-third of all medical malpractice claims, with more than half of those malpractice claims involving poor clinical decision-making.

Details of the report

This report, which was issued by the medical liability insurance provider Coverys, examined more than 10,000 medical malpractice claims from 2013 to 2017. Not only did it find that 33 percent of medical malpractice claims were associated with diagnosis errors, but also that:

  • 53 percent of diagnosis-related claims involved poor clinical decision-making/judgment
  • 36 percent of diagnosis-related claims involved cases in which the patient ultimately died
  • 35 percent of diagnosis errors occurred in physician offices and clinics
  • 24 percent of diagnosis errors occurred in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities

Most commonly misdiagnosed condition: cancer

Sadly, one of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions is also one of the most serious. According to the report, the leading condition involved in diagnosis-related malpractice claims is cancer (27 percent). Of these claims, four types of cancer accounted for more than half of all cancer-related claims, including

  • Breast cancer diagnosis problems: 21 percent of cancer malpractice claims
  • Lung cancer diagnosis problems: 17 percent of cancer malpractice claims
  • Colorectal cancer diagnosis problems: 14 percent of cancer malpractice claims
  • Prostate cancer diagnosis problems: 6 percent of cancer malpractice claims

Why is it happening?

While several reasons have been suggested for why doctors make mistakes, one of the most common is that they are simply overburdened with heavy workloads. Couple this with the fact that they often work in a siloed environment, and it is no surprise that errors happen.

However, just because medical mistakes happen doesn't mean we must accept it. After all, it is a doctor's job to diagnose patients -- and diagnose them correctly. When mistakes are made, those responsible must be held accountable.

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