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Most Common Medical Malpractice Errors: Cancer and Heart Attack Missed Diagnoses

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By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

Medical malpractice often is a nightmare for doctors and patients. According to a new study in BMJ Open, Irish researchers found that the most common claims for medical malpractice involve missed diagnoses for cancer and heart attacks in adults, and meningitis and cancers for children.

The study was conducted in 2012 and the researchers reviewed 7150 journal papers on medical malpractice claims.

The study noted that missed diagnoses accounted for 26-63% of the total claims they studied. Death was the most frequent consequence of the missed diagnoses, which occurred in 15-48% of cases.

The next most common source of claims were drug errors, which were determined to be in 6-20% of claims studied. The researchers noted that some of the drug error claims involved steroids, anticoagulants, antibiotics, antipsychotics and antidepressants.

About 1/3 of the claims studied from the US market resulted in financial compensation, and about ½ of claims in the UK resulted in a payout.

According to Dr. Richard Anderson, chairman and CEO of The Doctor’s Company, cancer and chest pain missed diagnoses are the easiest to miss. Only a small fraction of people who visit a doctor have a serious medical problem.

The study concludes that patients should be attentive and persistent with their doctors. If a woman has a lump in her breast but the doctor does not think it is a problem and thinks it is benign. He may say to keep an eye on it, but the patient does not give it another thought for three years. Then she may discover she has cancer, and wants to sue for malpractice. This could be avoided if the patient were more proactive.

HSInjurylaw.com is a Virginia law firm that blogs about cases involving medical malpractice, including drug prescription errors and missed diagnoses.