New Study Shows Cancer Misdiagnosis at Top of Malpractice Claims

Whitney Taylor | August 2nd, 2013

Cancer Misdiagnosis A new study shows that cancer misdiagnosis is at the top of the list for reasons to file a malpractice claim against a medical professional. Specifically, failing to diagnose a serious condition like cancer or a heart attack was the number one reason injured patients pursue malpractice claims against health care providers.

Study involves claims from multiple countries

The study, which was recently published in BMJ Open, involved 7,152 articles retrieved electronically by researchers. Out of those articles, researchers chose 34 studies to include in their narrative analysis. Fifteen of those studies were based in the U.S., while the rest came from Australia, Canada and France.

Researchers focused on claims against primary care physicians, since these providers typically provide the first line of care for patients. The study found that failure to diagnose complaints were the most common, with 26-63% of all claims involving this type of allegation.  Sadly, the most common consequence arising out of these misdiagnoses was death, which accounted for 15-48% of these cases.

For adults, the majority of failure to diagnose claims centered around cancer misdiagnosis, particularly breast, lung, colon and melanoma cancers. Failure to recognize and diagnose heart attacks also made the top of the list. In children, failure to diagnose claims primarily involved meningitis. Other conditions listed in failure to diagnose claims included ectopic pregnancy, bone fractures and appendicitis.

Medication errors came in a distant second for malpractice claims according to researchers, accounting for just 5.6-20% of all malpractice claims. The most common drugs included in these complaints were steroid, anticoagulants, antibiotics, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs topping the list.

The study also found that approximately one-half of all malpractice claims in the U.K. resulted in a payout for the injured patient. In the U.S. the number was about one-third of all individuals that file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

New York medical malpractice claims

Individuals filing a medical malpractice claim in New York must deal with a relatively short statute of limitations that requires lawsuits to be filed within 30 months of the date when the malpractice incident occurred. For that reason, it is important for New Yorkers to enlist the professional assistance of a skilled attorney as soon as they suspect malpractice contributed to their injuries.

When filing a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove that the health care provider behaved in a negligent manner, and that negligence contributed directly to the plaintiff’s injury. Negligence is proven by showing that another medical professional in a similar situation would have ordered a different test or made a different diagnosis. In some cases, the malpractice may be proven by showing diagnostic equipment was faulty or human error contributed to the incorrect diagnosis.

Claims may be filed against doctors, nurses, technicians, or any other provider who contributed to the misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or medication error. In addition, plaintiffs may also hold hospitals or other treatment facilities liable for injuries as a result of medical malpractice.

A cancer misdiagnosis can be catastrophic for the patient and the patient’s entire family. In some cases, a delayed diagnosis might make the difference between possible treatment options and a terminal prognosis. In these situations, patients need help and support to pursue legal compensation for their injuries, medical expenses and other economic losses incurred.

Hiring a malpractice attorney

The Sanders Firm has more than 40 years experience filing medical malpractice claims on behalf of injured New Yorkers. They understand what is required to prove a failure to diagnose case and will work tirelessly to assist those who have been injured by hospital negligence and medical mistakes. We work with residents in Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn to protect the rights of injured individuals and help them pursue the compensation they are entitled to.

If you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the Sanders Firm today. We will provide you with a free evaluation of your case, and charge no fees unless you receive a settlement or jury award. Contact us at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY (800.324.7752).


  1. CBS News, Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims for Missed Cancer, Heart Attacks http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57594570/most-common-medical-malpractice-claims-for-missed-cancer-heart-attacks/

  2. Huffington Post, Top Reason Patients Sue Doctors: Failure to Diagnose http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/reason-patients-sue-doctors-delay-failure_n_3623509.html