Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims For Missed Cancer, Heart Attacks

common_malpratice_primary_physiciansA new, large study reviewed medical malpractice claims and found claims are most commonly associated with missed cancer and heart attack claims.

The study appears in the July 18th issue of BMJ Open and was conducted by Irish researchers who reviewed more than 7,150 journal papers concerning medical malpractice claims, according to CBS News. The researchers were specifically reviewing claims brought against primary care physicians as this practice discipline typically represents the initial line of care among patients.

Of the studies reviewed, the team deemed 34 journal articles appropriate for the research; 15 from the United States-based, nine from Britain, seven from Australia, two from France, and one from Canada, according to CBS News. The researchers discovered that the most commonly reported medical malpractice claims involved missed diagnoses, which amounted to 26-63 percent of the total claims, depending on the study. Death topped the list of common consequences under claims for missed diagnosis and occurred in 15-48 percent of the cases.

The study, conducted by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School and Trinity College Dublin reported that the most prevalent missed diagnoses in adults were cancer and heart attack, followed by appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, and bone fractures. In children, most commonly missed diagnoses were related to meningitis and cancers, CBS News reported.

Drug errors followed and were seen in 6-20 percent of the claims with steroid preparations, antibiotics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics among the mediations cited. In fact, according to Medical News Today, blood thinners accounted for 7 percent of all medication errors, citing researchers from the University of Illinois reporting in Annals of Pharmacotherapy. Blood thinners, known as anti-coagulants, are usually prescribed to minimize risk for stroke and heart attack by preventing blood clots from developing in the veins and arteries.

The study revealed that in the past 20 years, the number of medical malpractice claims brought against primary care physicians in the United States has not seen any significant changes, while similar cases in the United Kingdom and Australia are on the rise, according to Medical News Today. Of note, the term “primary care” might have a somewhat different meaning fro country to country.

In an abstract printed in the journal, the researchers concluded that: “This review of malpractice claims in primary care highlights diagnosis and medication error as areas to be prioritized in developing educational strategies and risk management systems.”

Another study on which we recently wrote found that diagnostic errors are the most common, most expensive, and most dangerous errors that U.S. physicians make and lead to roughly 160,000 permanent patient injuries or deaths, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. That study appeared online in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

Research conducted last year indicated that surgeons make thousands of errors yearly in the U.S., a shocking finding based on a study of thousands of surgeries over ten years. The so-called “never events,” said The Wall Street Journal previously, are those mistakes that should not occur in medicine and include serious blunders such as surgery on the wrong patient and leaving sponges inside patients’ bodies. Research suggests these types of serious medical errors occur with distressing regularity. Lead study author, Martin Makary, associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, said surgical mistakes are “totally preventable.”

We’ve long written about the issue of botched surgeries and diagnostic errors. In prior studies, as in these studies, researchers noted that mistakes occur more often than realized and these types of errors are almost always fully preventable.

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