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Failure to diagnose is most common medical malpractice claim

New research shows that missed diagnoses are the most common medical malpractice claim and that doctors fail to diagnose cancer and heart attacks in adults more often than other ailments. Appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy and bone fractures are also commonly missed diagnoses among adults. Among children, meningitis and cancers are most often missed.

The most common consequence of these missed diagnoses, the research indicates, is death. Death occurred in 15 to 48 percent of the cases studied.

With ailments such as cancer, it is important that a diagnosis be made early in order for a patient to have the best chance at successful treatment. Failing to diagnose it early may result in cancer spreading throughout other parts of the body and diminishing a person's chance at a meaningful recovery.

Drug errors are also a common source of malpractice claims, the study -- which looked at claims from Europe, North America and Australia -- shows, with steroid, anticoagulant, antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs being involved in many of those claims.

Generally drug errors don't involve the type of drug, but rather, the dosage of it. Too much or too little of a drug can have severe consequences to a patient and can even result in death. Other common drug errors include pharmacist errors that often result in a pharmacist being unable to read a doctor's handwritten prescription correctly, and a doctor failing to adequately monitor a patient who is taking more than one drug at a time.

Lawsuits against doctors and nurses are often complex. However, in cases where a diagnosis has been missed or a drug error has been made, a patient or his or her family may be entitled to compensation for medical consequences due to medical malpractice.

Source: CBS News, "Most common medical malpractice claims for missed cancer, heart attacks," Ryan Jaslow, July 19, 2013

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