September 12, 2011

More than two-thirds of radiologists do at least some breast imaging (mammograms are x-ray images of the breast used to evaluate for signs of breast cancer and other diseases). Studies done in 1995 and 2002 found that delay in breast cancer diagnosis had become the most common basis for medical malpractice cases filed in the United States. In the 2002 study, the most commonly named medical malpractice defendants in such cases were the interpreting radiologists. The 2002 study also found that the second highest awards in medical malpractice cases were related to breast cancer, with an average payment of $438,047 (medical malpractice claims involving neurologically impaired newborns had the highest medical malpractice awards). The fear of medical malpractice claims may be one of the reasons why the number of physicians interpreting mammograms over a three-year period fell by 5% despite more women receiving mammograms.

A survey of some radiologists in 2006 revealed that about 10% of them had been the subject of a mammography-specific claim in the past 5 years. Despite this number, the radiologists thought that their risk of a mammography-related claim in the next 5 years to be about 35%, on average. This is significant because the percentage of radiologists who reported an actual claim of medical malpractice involving mammography interpretation was substantially less than the percentage of radiologists who perceived a risk of a medical malpractice claim being filed against them involving mammography interpretation within the next five years.

The study found that “radiologists’ perceptions of the risk of malpractice lawsuits related to breast imaging were significantly higher than their actual reported experience of being sued, and these perceptions remained high over a 5-year period…[the] data show that the average perceived risk for a lawsuit related to mammography is about four times higher than the reported rate of malpractice claims.” In short, the fear of medical malpractice claims by mammography-interpreting radiologists is much greater than the actual number of medical malpractice cases filed against them.


Our take on the results of the study is that radiologists who interpret mammograms have an unrealistic fear of being sued. Their fear far outweighs their actual risks. The unrealistic level of fear may have influenced the number of doctors willing to become radiologists. The boogeyman mentality of doctors in general who fear that they may be sued for malpractice helps to fuel their efforts to limit the rights of their patients to be fairly compensated if their medical negligence (that is, their screw-up) is the cause of their patients’ injuries, losses, suffering, or even death.

When the substandard (negligent) care of a medical provider is the cause of your injuries and suffering, you should seek legal advice regarding your right to be compensated for your losses. Visit our website to connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be willing and able to represent you in a medical malpractice claim or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.

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