Medical malpractice and sarcoma care--a thirty-three year review of case resolutions, inciting factors, and at risk physician specialties surrounding a rare diagnosis.

Mesko NW, Mesko JL, Gaffney LM, Halpern JL, Schwartz HS, Holt GE
J Surg Oncol. 2014 110 (8): 919-29

PMID: 25155556 · DOI:10.1002/jso.23770

BACKGROUND - We reviewed medico-legal cases related to extremity sarcoma malpractice in order to recognize those factors most commonly instigating sarcoma litigation.

METHODS - Over one million legal cases available in a national legal database were searched for malpractice verdicts and settlements involving extremity sarcoma spanning 1980-2012. We categorized verdict/settlement resolutions by state, year, award amount, nature of the complaint/injury, specialty of the physician defendant, and academic affiliation of defendant-amongst other variables.

RESULTS - Of the 216 cases identified, 57% of case resolutions favored the plaintiff, with a mean indemnity payment of $2.30 million (range $65,076-$12.66 million). Delay in diagnosis (81%), unnecessary amputation (11%), and misdiagnosis (7%) accounted for the majority of complaints. The greatest numbers of claims were filed against primary care specialties (34%), orthopaedic surgeons (23%), and radiologists (12%). Individual state tort reform measures were not protective against case resolution outcome.

CONCLUSIONS - Reported medico-legal claims involving sarcoma care continue to rise, with mean indemnity payments approaching 10 times that for other reported medical/surgical specialties. Primary care and orthopaedic specialties are the most commonly named physician defendants, citing a delay in diagnosis. This suggests further education in the front line diagnosis and management of sarcomas is needed.

© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

MeSH Terms (8)

Delayed Diagnosis Extremities Humans Malpractice Physicians Risk Sarcoma Sarcoma

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