NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 3, 2004

In the past five years, the number of malpractice claims against doctors who fail to diagnose colon cancer has grown, prompting some to ask whether physicians are lax at recommending colonoscopies or other tests to prevent the disease.

According to the Risk Management Foundation, a malpractice insurer that covers 9,000 doctors:

  • Between 1999 and 2003, four to eight patients a year have filed claims or lawsuits against doctors who didn't diagnose their colon cancer.
  • Though the number is small, it is unusual to have so many claims in one area.
  • In some cases, doctors never recommended screening for the cancer; in other cases, patients didn't schedule a test or show up for it.

Since there is a lag between when a patient is diagnosed with serious colon cancer and filing a claim, it is possible that screening has improved in the past couple of years, amid growing publicity about colonoscopies.

Source: Liz Kowalczyk, "More malpractice claims prompt medical concerns," Boston Globe, August 1, 2004.

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