Oncology Expert Witnesses & Diagnostic Errors

The United States medical coding system was updated October 1, 2015 for the first time in 36 years.  With the implementation of ICD-10, the International Classification of Diseases, diagnostic codes increased from 14,000 to approximately 70,000.  In the report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care, September 22, 2015, the National Academy of Sciences writes:


Getting the right diagnosis is a key aspect of health care — it provides an explanation of a patient’s health problem and informs subsequent health care decisions. Improving Diagnosis in Health Care … finds that diagnosis — and, in particular, the occurrence of diagnostic errors — has been largely unappreciated in efforts to improve the quality and safety of health care. The result of this inattention is significant: the committee concluded that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Gordon Schiff, M.D., associate director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice in Boston, considers diagnostic errors the leading cause of malpractice litigation in the US. These errors may include the incorrect, delayed, or missed diagnosis. The most common diagnostic errors leading to lawsuits in the US involve cancer patients. Because oncology cases are complex, an experienced board-certified oncology expert witness is an invaluable resource in litigation. Only the most qualified medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, or radiation oncologist can evaluate and opine in a cancer malpractice case.

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