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Why are internists the subject of many medical malpractice suits?

Many people assume that surgeons and medical specialists are the subject of medical malpractice suit, many internists are also the subject of lawsuits. Many primary care physicians are internists.

While they may deal with relatively minor medical conditions like cold and flu, many of their patients come to them with high-severity injuries.

In fact, according to one medical malpractice insurer, The Doctor's Company, based on a study of almost 1,200 claims between 2007 and 2014, 58 percent of the medical malpractice claims against internists involved high-severity injuries.

The most common allegations of medical malpractice against these physicians involved:

--- Incorrect or delayed diagnoses or failure to diagnose

-- Problems with the treatment provided, including lack of communication and failure to order the appropriate testing

-- Issues with medication, including failure to tell patients about possible negative interactions with other drugs and other potential side effects

The malpractice claims that were studied involved 84 different injuries. The most common (44 percent) was death. That was followed by infections, malignant conditions and adverse drug reactions.

As one physician specializing in internal medicine noted, "The average primary care physician will diagnose about 400 different diseases a year and occasionally encounters a rare medical condition that he or she may have never seen before. It is in this context that failure to diagnose may be caused by an error or lapse in reasoning rather than a failure of knowledge or clinical skill."

While many people feel more comfortable going to their primary care physician for any injury or illness, it's important to remember that they may not have the medical expertise to deal with it. A lot of primary care physicians will refer patients to a specialist who has that expertise. If your doctor doesn't do that and you still are suffering you can and should ask for a referral to a specialist.

However, any doctor whom you consult has an obligation to provide the best care possible. If you believe that your doctor hasn't done that and that you have suffered further injury as a result, you should determine what your legal options are.

Source: Becker's Hospital Review, "Internists more likely to face malpractice lawsuits for high-severity injuries than other physicians," Emily Rappleye, accessed Nov. 29, 2016

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