We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Article |

Medicolegal Analysis of the Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer in 338 Cases in the United States

Kenneth A. Kern, MD
Arch Surg. 1994;129(4):397-404. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1994.01420280073009.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


Objective:  To define the frequency, clinical characteristics, and legal outcomes of the delayed diagnosis of cancer leading to negligence litigation.

Design:  Retrospective review of 338 jury verdict reports from 42 states in the United States.

Setting:  State and federal civil court decisions, as reported to litigation survey services, in a 5-year interval from 1985 to 1990.

Results:  Of 338 cancers divided into 13 major organ sites, breast (38%, n=127), gastrointestinal (15%, n=51), lung (15%, n=50), and head and neck cancers (10%, n=33) accounted for 80% (270/338) of lawsuits. The average diagnostic delay for 212 cases was 17 months. The median age of patients with delays was 15 years younger than the age of patients presenting with cancer in the general population. For cancers in nine major organ sites, the ratio of mortality for patients filing lawsuits to that for patients with cancer in the general population averaged 3.4:1. The total known indemnity payout was $140.2 million, with an average payout per case of $64 600. At 1 to 3 months of diagnostic delay, jury verdicts largely favored the defense (seven of 11 [65%] defense verdicts); after 6 months of delay, jury verdicts were almost evenly divided between defense verdicts, plaintiff verdicts, and out-of-court settlements.

Conclusions:  The delayed diagnosis of cancer leading to negligence litigation is associated with significant indemnity payments, often involves middle-aged patients far younger than the expected age in the general cancer population, and is defensible only in the minority after 6 months of diagnostic delay.(Arch Surg. 1994;129:397-404)


Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.