Rise - Law Suits Follow
analysis showed the cost of these lawsuits could exceed $250
million in the next 10 years..."
good news is that more women than ever are getting mammograms. Breast
cancer is getting detected more often at earlier stages that makes
treatment more effective.
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost
200,000 women in this country are diagnosed with breast cancer and
more than 40,000 die from the disease every year. Two-thirds of
women over 40 have had a mammogram in the past two years and as
more health conscious baby boomers reach their 40's these numbers
are expected to increase.
what's the bad news?
rush to get screened is putting a drain on many centers. The waits
for an appointment can range up to several months. When mammograms
are done, they often miss growing cancers.
limits of mammography mean that many women will need treatment for
suspicious areas that turn out to be benign conditions. On the other
hand many women with breast cancer will be sent home - the cancer
missed by the technicians and doctors reading the results.
may be due to malpractice - it may also be due to the limits of
the technology. No matter what the cause, these missed diagnosis
result in treatments starting later and often mean more radical
surgeries and even less promising treatment results. Outraged patients
and their families often take the next logical step of filing a
analysis presented at the American Roentgen Ray Society's 2002 annual
meeting in Atlanta showed the cost of these lawsuits could exceed
$250 million in the next 10 years.
is going to be a huge public health problem," the author of
the study, Dr. Richard Tello, a professor of radiology, epidemiology
and biostatistics at Boston University said in an interview with
a Health Scout reporter.
analysis that Dr. Tello's team conducted assumed only one in 10
people who could sue would actually do so and the average settlement
figure would be about $200,000 based on 1995 figures.
figures are conservative, since malpractice awards have tended to
rise since 1995. Even with this conservative estimate it would cost
$70 for every mammogram done today simply to cover future litigation
costs. If the figures were adjusted to reflect current statistics,
the cost could be as high as $200 for every mammogram.
will these costs be covered? Insurance companies will need to raise
the rates for liability insurance. This added expense for radiologists
will increase the cost for mammograms.
centers are already feeling the pinch of mammograms being reimbursed
for much less than the cost to the center. Part of the cause of
long waits is the many centers that have stopped doing mammograms.
They cannot afford the loss that this procedure brings to their
budget. This can only aggravate the problem.
Tello suggested creating a centralized, no-fault insurance pool
to cover these future costs.
this is a solid idea to contain the costs of future lawsuits, many
in the breast cancer community disagree. The answer lies not in
protecting radiologists from increased liability due to a diagnostic
tool that often causes breast cancer to be missed. If money is to
be spent on this, it ought to be on research to find a better, more
accurate way to diagnose breast cancer.
29, 2002, presentation, American Roentgen Ray Society annual meeting,
on the Web:
Screening Is Saving Thousands of Lives, but Will It Survive Medical
Cancer & Community Diagnosis : Malpractice
Lawsuits limit cancer tests
Updated August 1, 2006