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Missed Diagnosis Most Common Source of Medical Malpractice Cases

Failure To Diagnose LawsuitA recent study conducted by Irish researchers, has concluded that the most common form of medical malpractice is missed diagnoses. It accounts for about twenty six to sixty three percent of the total claims with death being the most frequent consequence. Cancer and heart attacks are the most common diseases to be wrongly identified in adults while meningitis and cancer were the most common misdiagnosed diseases in children.

Medical Malpractice: When Doctors Deviate From The Standard Of Care

Medical malpractice is negligence where the standard of care falls below the accepted standards due to omission, oversight or mistakes made by the healthcare professional resulting in injury or death to the patient. Medical malpractice is the theory of liability relating to Negligence under Tort law. A case for negligent treatment must have four elements: 1) duty of care owed by the physician 2) violation of the standard of care 3) injury or loss suffered by the patient 4) a causal link between the detrimental standard of care to the injury suffered. Causation is a critical element as the accused may claim that the situation was created due to other factors unrelated to the substandard care provided by the doctor.

Consequences of the Malpractice cases

In the US alone, 3 billion dollars were paid in malpractice suit payouts during 2012. With missed diagnoses as the most common form of medical malpractice, drug errors come in a close second. However, surprisingly only one third of all the cases in the US and half of the cases in the UK ended in a payout and the true beneficiaries were the lawyers, not the plaintiff or the accused.

Such lawsuits have resulted in a concept known as “defensive medicine,” with doctors taking unnecessary measures such as increased diagnostic testing by conducting more tests, being excessively prudent and providing excessive precautionary medication. This has resulted in creating an unsatisfactory environment where medical costs have become too high for the average person.

Medical Malpractice Reform

Unlike the common perception that plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits end up winning the lottery, the real truth is in fact such lawsuits have only resulted in doctors taking defensive measures, precautionary test which might not even be required, to prevent any chance of medical malpractice. As this results in the prices of the health care system skyrocketing, there is much need for reform.

Reforms could include measures such as shortening the statutes of limitations, introducing higher standards for expert witnesses and proof, mandatory hearing panels, etc.  These measures will not only improve health standards but also decrease the practice of defensive medicine. However, such actions will only be stepping stone, much more needs to be done to improve the health system to minimize medical malpractice.


With the numerous studies conducted, it has become quite obvious that missed diagnosis is the leading form of medical malpractice. Numerous cases have come forward and statistics show that fatalities have occurred 48 percent of the time in misdiagnosed cases. With the most common form of misdiagnosis being cancer or heart attacks, the results are fairly obvious.