Missed Cancer, Heart Attacks Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a recent study published in BMJ Open examining more than 7,000 papers on medical malpractice lawsuit claims against primary doctors. The papers were written on patients in the U.S., Canada, France, Australia and Great Britain.

Researchers found that the most common malpractice claim was for missed diagnoses, which made up between 26 and 63% of the total. In about 15-48% percent of those missed diagnoses, death was the ultimate result. Additionally, the most common missed diagnoses were of cancer and heart attacks, followed by appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, and bone fractures (in adults). For children, the most common missed diagnoses were of cancers and meningitis.

Following missed diagnoses, the most common malpractice claims were for drug errors, which accounted for between six and 20% of the total. The drugs most cited in claims included anticoagulants, antidepressants, steroid preparations, and antipsychotics.

It is worth noting that the symptoms of cancer and heart attacks are among the most difficult to diagnose – they often begin with simple chest pain or aches and lesions. Only a small percentage of patients who go see a primary doctor actually have such a serious condition, and most turn out to be minor ailments, such as acid reflux.

Researchers recommend that patients be attentive and persistent in concern to their wellbeing. For example, a woman going to see her physician because of a suspicious lump on her breast, and after initial testing, the doctor may diagnose it as benign, and recommend keeping an eye on it if it doesn’t go away. That woman, assured that it is not malignant, may not return to the doctor for another two years, at which point it may have formed into full-blown cancer.

In sum, the researchers asserted that malpractice risk in primary care is largely understudied, and further awareness of risks and claims could considerably help inform risk management and education processes.

On the other end of the spectrum, one woman, Herlinda Garcia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, and was later told her original cancer diagnosis was false. Her physician, Dr. Ahmad Qadri, reportedly misread her test results when she had a lump removed from her breast.

Garcia ultimately filed a malpractice claim against him, and was awarded more than $365,000 by a jury. She now actively advocates for cancer patients, recommending they always receive second opinions. A second physician can do more than just confirm or disagree with diagnoses; they may also provide alternative treatment options and give advice patients may benefit from.

Patients, particularly those with rare cancers such as mesothelioma, may want to ask their physician what their specialty is, as there are many doctors who may see cases of mesothelioma only once a year or less. Other, more specialized doctors may have more information concerning experimental therapies and clinical trials. Also, teaching hospitals are often considered to be at the forefront of the most recent medical developments, however, because they are being treated by doctors-in-training, patients may be hesitant. It is ultimately up to patients to decide what they feel most comfortable with.

Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on studies, reports and conclusive findings concerning the prevalence of negligence among our nation’s health care providers. If you or a loved one was seriously injured due to the negligence of a medical provider, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, time away from work, and emotional distress, and should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible.