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Study ranks most common medical malpractice claims.

New Jersey residents may be surprised to hear the results of a recent study that discovered the most common medical malpractice claims were missed diagnoses for cancer and heart attacks. The researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School reviewed more than 7,150 journal papers on medical malpractice claims, focusing specifically on claims against primary care doctors. They included 34 journal articles in their study, including those from France, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States. The researchers found that missed diagnoses were the most common malpractice claims, with between 26 and 63 percent of the cases involving a missed diagnosis. Death was the most common consequence of the alleged malpractice, being found in between 15 and 48 percent of the cases studied.

The study found that cancer and heart attacks were the most commonly misdiagnosed ailments in adults, with appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, and bone fractures also commonly misdiagnosed. In children, the study found that meningitis and cancer were the two maladies that were most commonly misdiagnosed. Errors in prescribing drugs such as anti-coagulants, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics was found to be the second most common malpractice claim, found in between 6 and 20 percent of the claims.

Medical malpractice is a form of negligence found when a medical professional breaches a duty of ordinary care that he or she owes to a patient, and the patient is harmed as a result. Claims over medical malpractice frequently stem from difficult to treat illnesses such as cancer or chest pain, and medical malpractice claims can lead to the practice of "defensive medicine" where doctors order unnecessary tests or prescribe unneeded medications. In addition to the doctor's liability, the hospital may also be held liable.

A victim of medical malpractice may suffer both physically and emotionally for the trauma involved with an incorrect or missed diagnosis. It may take time and complicated medical procedures before a New Jersey resident can come to terms with their experience, and it may be possible to recover financial compensation for the pain and suffering involved, as well as for expenses such as incurred disability, lost wages, and medical bills stemming from the malpractice. In this way, the defendant is held accountable for the negligence, and those affected obtain a fair relief.

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

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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