-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Most malpractice claims
against primary care doctors are the result of drug errors and
missed diagnoses, particularly of cancer, heart attack and
meningitis, a new review finds.
Researchers analyzed 34 studies published over the past two
years, including 15 studies based in the United States.
In the United States, primary care doctors accounted for between
7.6 percent and 16 percent of all malpractice claims, according to
the study published online July 18 in the journal
BMJ Open. The number of claims brought against U.S. primary
care doctors has remained fairly stable over the past two
Missed diagnoses were the most common source of malpractice
claims against primary care doctors, accounting for 26 percent to
63 percent of the total, report a team led by Dr. Emma Wallace of
the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School, in
The most common consequence of missed diagnoses in malpractice
claims was death, which occurred in 15 percent to 48 percent of the
Among adults, the most common alleged missed diagnoses were
cancer, heart attack, appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy and broken
bones. Among children, the most common alleged missed diagnoses
were meningitis and cancers.
The second most common reason for malpractice claims were drug
errors, accounting for between 5.6 percent and 20 percent of all
claims in the studies.
Only one-third of malpractice claims in the United States were
successful, according to the review authors.
One U.S. expert in malpractice claims said the results weren't
"Across all medical specialties, misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are the top reason for malpractice suits in the United States, and many of those claims involve cancer and heart attacks," said Dr. David Troxel, medical director at The Doctors Company, the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, located in Napa, Calif.
He said that "the only point made in the study that sharply
differs from my experience was the mention that indemnity was paid
in approximately 30 percent of the malpractice cases examined.
"That statistic may be skewed by the number of claims analyzed by the research that arose from outside the United States -- where laws exist that may define negligence differently. In the U.S., however, more than 80 percent of claims never result in indemnity payment, [most] being judged as frivolous or baseless claims."
The American Academy of Family Physicians explains what patients
can do to help
prevent medical errors.
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