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Radiology-related malpractice frequently ends in death

While radiologists and pathologists are critical in the accurate diagnosis of cancer and other conditions, they are not always engaged by diagnostic teams in Iowa and other states. Coverys recently studied more than 10,000 of its medical professional liability claims, spanning the years 2013 to 2017 and all related to radiology, and it has come to some eye-opening conclusions.

Researchers found that general medicine practitioners were blamed for the majority of diagnosis-related claims, which are claims of a missed, delayed or incorrect diagnosis. Approximately 15 percent of the allegations were aimed at radiologists while 80 percent of the claims were due to the misinterpretation of clinical tests.

Moreover, over 80 percent of missed-diagnosis claims involved a serious and permanent injury or a fatality. The most frequently misdiagnosed condition was cancer with the most prevalent being breast, lung, pancreatic and ovarian cancer.

In their report, researchers at Coverys suggest several steps that can help reduce the risk for errors and improve patient outcomes. These include the standardization of treatment protocols and the use of decision support films among doctors. Medical centers could also implement checklists and formal quality improvement methods. Doctors can be trained to separate the imaging report from incidental findings and recommendations.

Not all medical errors are due to negligence; it must be shown, for instance, that the doctor failed to uphold an objective standard of care. Victims of diagnostic errors will therefore want to have a lawyer evaluate their grounds for a medical malpractice claim. If someone dies as a result of malpractice, a family member or other eligible dependent may file a wrongful death suit. In either case, the lawyer might request an inquiry with the medical board and hire third parties to conduct an investigation. The lawyer may be able to negotiate for a fair settlement after this.

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