Study: Most Malpractice Claims Result from Drug Errors, Missed Diagnoses

A new review has concluded that most medical malpractice claims filed against primary care physicians stem from drug errors and missed diagnoses, U.S. News has reported in their online Health section.

The review, led by Dr. Emma Wallace of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School, combed through 7,152 studies—34 of which were deemed eligible for analysis—published over the last two years.

Fifteen of the analyzed studies were based in the U.S. where, the study found, only about one-third of all malpractice claims are successful. A somewhat surprising revelation is that the number of malpractice lawsuits brought against primary care doctors over the last 20 years in the U.S. has remained steady. This is contrary to the steadily rising number malpractice claims filed in the UK and Australia.

Among the findings, which were published online July 18 in the journal BMJ Open, missed diagnoses were the most common reason behind medical malpractice claims against primary care doctors, accounting for 26 to 63 percent of the total number of claims. While less common, drug errors—seven percent of which involved anticoagulant blood thinners in the U.S.— accounted for between 5.6 to 20 percent of all medical malpractice claims.

An additionally grim conclusion from the study revealed the most common result of a missed diagnosis in a malpractice claim was death, which happened in between 15 to 48 percent of all claims. The most commonly misdiagnosed ailments, according to the study, are cancer, appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, heart attack and broken bones.