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Misdiagnosis most common reason for malpractice claims

Based on just the stories that tend to make the news, readers might justifiably conclude that for medical malpractice to be claimed that horrendous doctor error in treatment or surgical procedure has to have occurred. The truth is far different and readers in and around the Chicago area should be aware so that they can take appropriate action if necessary.

The reality is that there are more claims made and paid every year for medical malpractice due to doctors' failure to diagnose the patient's condition properly in the first. The cascade effect of such a mistake is easy to track. If the illness isn't properly identified, the wrong treatment is likely to follow. The result could be unnecessary disability or even death.

Proof that misdiagnosis is the major culprit of medical error is available from a study that was published online last month by BMJ Quality & Safety. What researchers found after studying more than 350,000 claims from the past 25 years is that diagnosis errors accounted for about 35 percent of some $39 billion that was paid out during the period.

Diagnosis mistakes led the pack for claims paid for deaths and disabilities caused. Surgical and medication errors followed. But even combined, those latter two didn't surpass misdiagnosis for claims paid. Not surprisingly, outpatient services proved to be the venue in which most errors were made. But interestingly, errors made during hospitalizations proved to be the ones that were more likely to be fatal.

Authors of the study drew their data for review from a federal data bank. They looked at all claims paid for malpractice from 1986 to 2010. In the end they concluded that as many as 160,000 diagnosis errors that result in preventable disability or death are made every year. They say the medical profession not only can do better than that, but must for the sake of patient safety.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "'Misdiagnosis' Leading Cause of U.S. Malpractice Payouts: Study," Denise Mann, HealthDay, April 23, 2013

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FAQ Medical Malpractice

Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice

Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital, whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient...

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