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Diagnostic errors result in most medical malpractice claims

As more hospitals and medical centers are trying to improve patient safety, many patients may be wondering what risks they may still face when they are admitted to the hospital. Patients having surgery may worry about surgical mistakes or unsafe surgical equipment being used. Patients staying in the hospital may worry about medication errors or overdoses, and pregnant patients may worry about obstetric errors.

All patients are at risk for suffering from a hospital error but what is the most common type of medical mistake cited in medical malpractice lawsuits? The most common malpractice claim that results in a settlement or payment is diagnostic errors. This may be surprising to some but the National Practitioner Data Bank found that 28 percent of medical malpractice payments were for diagnostic errors.

Diagnostic mistakes can be very dangerous to patients. If there is a delay in diagnosing a patient's condition, he or she is more likely to suffer further damage to his or her health as well possible complications from not treating the disease as soon as possible.

The report found that diagnostic errors accounted for almost 40 percent of patient fatalities in medical malpractice lawsuits that resulted in payments. In addition, diagnostic errors caused roughly 34 percent of disabilities in patients that filed medical malpractice lawsuits that resulted in payments. This means that diagnostic errors accounted for the most medical malpractice claims where the patient received a settlement for the doctor's or hospital's negligence in diagnosing the patient's condition.

When doctors miss a diagnosis, the patient's life may be at risk. That is why victims of diagnostic errors can take legal action against the negligent parties involved in their medical treatment. Patients should consult a medical malpractice attorney to discuss what legal action can be taken.

Source: New York Times, "Why Doctors Are Sued," Nicholas Bakalar, April 29, 2013

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