Diagnostic errors are lead cause of medical liability payouts

Errors in diagnosis are responsible for more deaths, disabilities and medical liability payments than any other kind of medical error, according to a review of more than 350,000 paid claims from 1986 to 2010 included in the National Practitioner Data Bank.

The findings echo earlier research and draw on the largest set of cases yet to be analyzed. More than 100,000 medical liability cases involved errors in diagnosis, nearly 30% of the total. That compares with 27% for treatment mistakes and 24% for surgical errors, said the study, published online April 22 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

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