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Misdiagnosis most common reason for medical malpractice claims

Physicians and health care facilities can be held liable for negligence and other medical errors that harm patients. There are many different types of mistakes that lead to medical malpractice claims in New Jersey but the a new study found that misdiagnosis is the most common reason for patients to file a medical negligence or malpractice claim against their primary care physician.

Primary care physicians are typically the first person to treat a patient either through annual exams or when a health issue arises. Because patients usually see their primary care physician the most, these doctors should be able to detect serious health conditions before the patient suffers complications or death. Unfortunately, diagnostic errors by physicians can lead to serious health complications and even death in patients with serious conditions. 

Failing to diagnosis or misdiagnosing a patient's condition can be very dangerous. If a patient is not diagnosed with the correct medical condition, they may suffer serious and even fatal complications. Misdiagnosing a patient's condition can be very risky and has led to many deaths and medical malpractice lawsuits in the past, according to the study.

The study reported that up to 48 percent of misdiagnosis medical malpractice claims were filed after the patient died due to the misdiagnosis. The most common conditions that were not properly diagnosed by physicians were heart attacks and cancer. Other medical conditions commonly misdiagnosed that lead to medical malpractice claims include appendicitis, bone fractures and ecoptic pregnancy. For children, the most common missed diagnoses were for cancer and meningitis.

Why is cancer and chest pain more likely to be missed by physicians? Medical professionals say that cancer can be very difficult to detect in the early stages and for some patients it is too late to receive treatment once they have been diagnosed with cancer. The same reasoning applies to patients with chest pain who later have a heart attack. Many physicians attribute chest pain to a different disorder or fail to order tests to determine what risks the patient may face. Not wanting to order too many tests and failing to follow-up with patients can lead to missed cancer and heart condition diagnoses until it's too late.

Victims of diagnostic errors and their families may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the physician responsible for their care. Victims should consult a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their case. 

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

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