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Medical malpractice death rate revealed to be higher in ICU

Pulmonary embolism and myocardial infarction are two potentially fatal medical issues that are missed in nearly 8 percent of adult patients admitted to the ICU, according to findings in 31 autopsy-based studies. The doctor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research feels the findings may even underestimate the actual rate of potential medical malpractice since the study does not include misdiagnoses that did not result in the patient's death.

The Goldman Classification, with its four classes of criteria to define errors, was used in this study. A class 1 error is defined as a missed major misdiagnosis that is potentially fatal and would have led to different management of the patient; this serious error accounted for approximately 8 percent of ICU fatalities in the study, and class II errors, defined as missed major diagnoses that were not potentially fatal, accounted for nearly 15 percent of cases. Class III errors denote misdiagnoses related to an underlying terminal, but not moribund, condition. Misdiagnoses unrelated to disease or death comprise the class IV category.

The most important factor in the study is the 8 percent of class I lethal misdiagnoses; this figure is higher than the 5 percent of fatal complications found in the general hospital population. The research attributes this difference to factors specific to the ICU, such as patients who can't communicate and limited staff resources.

An attorney specializing in medical malpractice can help the families of victims make decisions and navigate the difficult situations that arise from a death due to negligence by misdiagnosis in the ICU. There are volumes of medical records to be reviewed and insurance companies to negotiate with to determine if there is a medical issue that contributed to the death of a loved one.

Source: Anesthesiology News, "Nearly 30% of ICU Deaths Have Missed Diagnoses," David Wild, Nov 2012

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