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Medical mistakes can have fatal consequences

The majority of medical malpractice claims filed against primary care physicians in the U.S. are the result of serious but preventable medical mistakes. In fact, according to a recent review of studies published in the last two years, the most common reasons patients file medical malpractice claims against primary care doctors involve medication errors and missed diagnosis. Maryland readers may find the following blog on the failure to diagnose and medication errors interesting.

Medical malpractice claims filed against primary care doctors account for between seven and 16 percent of all malpractice claims filed in the U.S. Among the most common reasons that patients file malpractice claims against their doctors is missed diagnosis. In fact, missed diagnoses were the number one most common cause of malpractice claims against primary care doctors, accounting for somewhere between 26 percent and 63 percent of all medical malpractice claims filed.

The second leading cause of medical malpractice claims filed against primary care doctors in the U.S. is drug or medication errors. A drug or medication error involves an error resulting in a patient being given the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication. According to the same study discussed above, medication errors currently account for somewhere between five percent and 20 percent of all the medical malpractice claims filed against primary care doctors.

The consequences of serious, even minor medical mistakes can be life threatening for patients. In fact, with missed diagnoses the most common consequence suffered by patients was death. Death accounted for between 26 percent and 63 percent of the claims filed. This is not surprising considering the most common misdiagnoses involved the misdiagnosis of cancer and heart conditions, which can result in a failure to treat illnesses correctly in a time efficient manner.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Missed Diagnoses, Drug Errors Are Major Cause of Malpractice Suits," July 19, 2013

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