Can A Cardiologist Be Liable For Medical Malpractice?

Heart Attack Misdiagnosis

Cardiology malpractice occurs through physician negligence. Some common examples of physician negligence leading to cardiology malpractice include failure to diagnose or treat high cholesterol, failure to timely or properly perform angioplasty, failure to diagnose or treat high blood pressure, failure to diagnose or treat coronary heart disease, failure to timely place a stent in an artery, and failure to perform an echocardiogram or stress test.

Cardiologists are more likely to be sued than their general physician counterparts, however, these types of lawsuits are not likely to result in financial payments. While surgical specialties are the most likely to face legal action, pediatricians and psychiatrists are the least likely to undergo such an ordeal. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers investigated malpractice information from 1991 to 2005. The data utilized by the researchers consisted of physicians that were covered by professional liability insurers that had a national client base. The study included more than 40,000 physicians of which 25 clinical specialties were represented. Furthermore, 233,738 physician-years of liability were represented.

Researchers found that each year 7.4% of physicians dealt with medical-malpractice claims. Subspecialties were deemed to suffer from higher rates of medical malpractice suits. For example, there was a rate of 19.1% among neurosurgeons, 18.9% for thoracic-cardiovascular surgeons, and 15.3% for general surgeons. In contrast, the rates were lower for general physicians. For example, medical malpractice claims among pediatricians was only 3.1%, while it was 2.6% among psychiatrists.

The researchers for this study were unable to discover a strong correlation between those physicians involved in malpractice claims and those physicians who made payment on such claims. While specialty physicians such as cardiologists were more likely to be sued for malpractice, they were less likely to actually pay due to this claim of malpractice. In contrast, general surgeons, orthopedic and thoracic-cardiovascular surgeons and gynecologists were more likely to face malpractice claims leading to payment on the claim. These findings may indicate that cardiologists, while they have many suits brought against them, win more suits than a general physician.

The average indemnity payment was found to be $274,887, this was for all 25 specialties. The median indemnity payment was $111,749. Thus, specialties that were the most likely to face malpractice claims were not necessarily the specialties that earned the most. This becomes obvious looking at the salary of a neurosurgeon versus pathologists and pediatricians. The neurosurgeons earn on average $344,811, while pathologists, on average, $383,509 and pediatricians earn $520,924.

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