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Introduction:

Medical malpractice and prostate cancer screening are important issues in the current landscape of health care. We identified factors contributing to litigation in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Methods:

We used the Westlaw® database to search for jury verdict reports using the term medical malpractice combined with prostate cancer with dates ranging from January 2000 to December 2013. Each case was examined for trial year, patient age, prostate specific antigen at alleged breach of duty and at diagnosis, defendant specialty, alleged cause of malpractice, whether there was metastasis, the outcome of cases that went to trial or were otherwise settled, and the plaintiff award.

Results:

The initial search produced 256 results, which was narrowed to 106 cases. Of these cases 64.1% went to trial, including 66.2% that were decided for the defendant. The mean out of court settlement was $945,000, significantly lower than the mean plaintiff verdict award of $2.1 million (p = 0.0009). Primary care physicians (74.1%) were the most commonly named defendants, followed by urologists (19.6%). The most common cause was failure to perform an initial prostate specific antigen test (26.8%), followed by failure to follow elevated prostate specific antigen (22.3%).

Conclusions:

Causes of malpractice revolved mostly around prostate specific antigen testing. Primary care physicians and urologists must continue to educate patients to minimize malpractice claims made in this setting. It will be important to follow data to see trends following recent guidelines.

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