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What Are the Most Common Causes of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

While medical malpractice can have a variety of causes, some mistakes happen more frequently than others. Missed diagnoses and drug errors are most commonly cited in malpractice suits, according to a recent study.

The study is novel because it is one of the few to examine medical malpractice lawsuits against primary care doctors. This is surprising given that primary care physicians are the healthcare professional most of us see most often.

The researchers at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School and Trinity College Dublin analyzed data from published studies in English on the number of malpractice claims in primary care in April 2012 and January 2013. Below are their primary findings, as summarized by Medical New Today:

  • Overall, missed diagnoses accounted for the greatest number of malpractice claims, accounting for between 26 percent and 63 percent of all malpractice claims.
  • Death was the most common consequence of alleged malpractice, ranging from 15 percent to 48 percent of all claims made for missed diagnoses.
  • The most commonly missed diagnoses were related to heart attack and cancer among adults. There were many claims alleging missed diagnoses in cases of fractures, ectopic pregnancy, and appendicitis.
  • The most common claims among pediatric patients were related to cancers and meningitis.
  • Drug errors were the second most common sources of malpractice claims, which ranged from 5.6% to 20% of all cases.

As the findings highlight, patients should consider seeking a second opinion if they are not satisfied with the diagnosis of their primary care doctor and take an active role in their healthcare.