Misdiagnosis the Leading Cause of Malpractice Claims

The term medical malpractice conjures up images of surgeries gone horribly awry, with errors such as removing the wrong kidney; or of obstetrical problems, a botched delivery leaving a baby a vegetable for life.

But the truth is most medical malpractice claims are based on something much more mundane: failure to properly diagnosis an illness or other medical condition.

As reported in the Washington Post, a recent article in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety (published by the British Medical Journal) reported that problems with diagnosis – either getting something wrong, missing something, or getting it too late – accounted for nearly a third (29%) of successful medical malpractice cases. And that 29% of the cases generated 35% of the money paid out – and they were responsible for 39% of the deaths caused by medical malpractice. Misdiagnosis is clearly a major problem.

The study was based on examining 25 years’ worth of data in the US Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner Database. By federal law, all malpractice settlements must be entered into this database. The researchers examined 350,000 malpractice cases from the years 1986 to 2010.

Some of the other leading causes of medical malpractice claims included:

  • Treatment errors (27%)
  • Surgical errors (24%)
  • Obstetrical problems (7%)
  • Errors in medication (5%)
  • Problems with anesthesia (3%)

One of the researchers, Dr. David E. Newman-Toker of John Hopkins University School of Medicine said “Diagnostic errors are the most common, the most costly and the most deadly of all medical errors.” According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, mis- or delayed diagnosis is very common, and results in 40,000 to 80,000 deaths a year.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have been the victim of misdiagnosis – or any other form of medical malpractice – contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at the law firm of James C. DeZao, P.A.