The Penn State Cancer Institute reported that an increasing number of medical malpractice payouts now involve those with thyroid cancer. In 1973, there were 3.6 cases of thyroid cancer per 100,000 people. By 2014, the number of cases rose to roughly 15 per 100,000 people.
Dr. Joshua Warrick, a researcher at the Penn State College of Medicine, says it is difficult to determine why there has been such a massive increase. One likely contributor is that more doctors are practicing “defensive medicine” by ordering more diagnostic testing. Thyroid cancer rarely leads to death. Cases of medical malpractice are increasingly the result of allegations of failing to diagnose the disease or untimely diagnosis.
Potential Defensive Medicine
In the medical community today there are no standards in place to screen for thyroid cancer. This is in sharp contrast to the regularly suggested screening programs for prostate and breast cancer. Research presented by Massachusetts General Hospital shows that some specialists, particularly OB/GYNs and neurosurgeons, seem to be practicing in a highly defensive manner due to the prevalence of medical malpractice. Defensive medicine has shown to clearly drive up the costs of healthcare.
Correlations: Thyroid Cancer and Medical Malpractice
Data suggests that a significant amount of unnecessary testing now occurs in regions where claims of medical malpractice are high. In these regions with a high volume of claims, there are also high rates of thyroid cancer. The association between these two factors is still strong regardless of “socioeconomic” levels. There are high rates of thyroid cancer among wealthier individuals, likely the result of more screening and testing.
The states with the most reported cases of thyroid cancer include Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Southern states such as Alabama and Georgia have among the lowest rates. Many conclude that cultural differences in states influence the volume of cases of medical negligence. Many states have adopted more aggressive tort reform than others, such as imposing limitations (caps) of the amount that may be awarded for damages. Many of these efforts seek to lower the costs of malpractice insurance and litigation.
The thyroid is a gland located in the throat region near the “Adam’s apple” area. The thyroid assists our bodies with managing blood pressure, heart rate, and other functions by creating hormones. As technology has progressed, thyroid cancer has been easier to detect. Fortunately, the majority of these cases can be effectively treated.
Errors relating to the diagnosis of medical conditions are commonly cited reasons for claims of medical malpractice. Some examples include:
- The provider makes an inaccurate diagnosis, such as making a diagnosis pertaining to the wrong medical condition
- Errors involving delayed or untimely diagnosis is commonly the results of an inaccurate initial diagnosis
- Claims for delayed diagnosis usually stem from medical conditions that have progressed or developed. Often the development of these conditions limits the options available for treatment that would have existed months or years earlier.
- A medical practitioner may fail to properly interpret laboratory results or X-rays that suggest the likelihood that a medical condition exists
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