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Misdiagnosis tops malpractice claims for Massachusetts doctors

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association lead by a doctor from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston evaluated more than 500 malpractice lawsuits that had been filed against Bay State primary care physicians, or PCPs, from 2005 to 2009. Results of the research indicated that 397 of the suits stemmed from misdiagnosis, while the remainder involved medications, communication, patient rights and other issues.

According to the study, malpractice cases involving primary care resulted in settlements 35 percent of the time, with a verdict favoring the plaintiff 1.6 percent of the time. Specialists had a settlement rate of 21 percent with a verdict for the plaintiff 0.9 percent of the time. Researchers determined that primary care ambulatory claims appeared more difficult to defend as compared to allegations involving specialists. PCP cases were often more challenging to defend, and more cases were settled in favor of the plaintiff.

The most common reasons for malpractice suits against PCPs included allegations of diagnostic errors, such as not making a referral to an appropriate specialist, rushing through an exam and failing to follow up on abnormal test results. According to a study done in April 2013, diagnostic errors are the leading catalysts for medical malpractice claims nationwide.

Speaking with a medical malpractice attorney may be helpful to those who believe they have been misdiagnosed medically. An attorney may be able to evaluate the case and determine if liability could be proven. He or she may pursue compensation that could be of benefit to patients and their families, especially as far as paying medical bills and cost of living expenses are concerned.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Misdiagnoses most common malpractice claim for Mass. docs", Zack Budryk, October 08, 2013

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