Omission-Related Malpractice Claims and the Limits of Defensive Medicine

Richard L Kravitz, John E. Rolph, Laura Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


To describe the malpractice environment as it relates to defensive medicine, the authors studied omission-related claims from a large physician-owned malpractice insurer covering 70 percent of physicians in a northeastern state. During a 12-year period (1977-1989) claims resulting from alleged diagnostic omissions were considered important in less than 9 percent of claims and of central importance in 4 percent. Compared with other claim types, omission-related claims were more likely to be paid, had a higher median payment, and were more often associated with significant patient injury or death; the association with more frequent payments remained after controlling for physician specialty, geographic region, and degree of patient injury. Malpractice claims alleging diagnostic and monitoring omissions are relatively uncommon but appear difficult to defend relative to other claim types. Taken in light of the changing health care environment, these results highlight the limits of defensive medicine and support an expanded focus for medical liability reform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-471
Number of pages16
JournalMedical Care Research and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Nursing(all)
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)


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