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Does diagnostic delay of colorectal cancer result in malpractice claims? A retrospective analysis of the Swedish board of malpractice from 1995–2008

Author(s): Hafström Larsolof | Johansson Henry | Ahlberg Jon

Journal: Patient Safety in Surgery
ISSN 1754-9493

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 13;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Colorectal cancer | Diagnostic delay | Insurance claim review | Medical errors | Patient safety

Abstract Aim Delay in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) may have important clinical and medico-legal implications. This study identifies the claims made on the basis of delay in the diagnosis of CRC to the Swedish insurance agency (whose English name is The County Council´s Mutual Insurance Company) and the impact and consequences of the delay on prognosis, treatment and survival for patients who reported the claims. The Company handles claims of medical malpractice where claimants seek compensation for alleged suffering and/or negative clinical impacts of diagnostic delays. Material and methods Between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2008, a total of 80 patients filed claims for negative effects resulting from delays in the diagnosis of CRC. Review of the claims led to identification of delay for 62 patients. The clinical symptoms that were overlooked and other causes of delay that had any relation to therapy, prognosis and economic compensation were evaluated. Results The median delay in the diagnosis of CRC was six months. This delay was considered to have had an impact on the therapy in 20 % of the cases. The prognosis was postulated to have been adversely affected for 15 % of the patients. The delay was mainly caused by incomplete consideration of the symptoms hematoschisis or anaemia, changed bowel routine, or incomplete clinical or radiological examination and by misinterpretations of the results. No impact of duration of delay on survival was identified. The importance of identifying concomitant metastatic disease at diagnosis was overwhelming. Economic compensation was given in 79 % of the cases. Conclusion This study found that claims for compensation for delay in diagnosis of CRC are rare. The delay in the diagnosis of the primary tumour was considered to have had an impact on the magnitude of therapeutic measures for a fifth of the patients who filed claims. Economic compensation for the patients´ injuries was given in almost 80 % of the cases.
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