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Do the Poor Sue More?

Kenneth A. Kern, MD, FRCS
JAMA. 1994;271(7):504. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510310033028.
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To the Editor.  —Recently, Burstin et al1 studied liability claims rates for medical malpractice among the poor and reported that indigent and elderly patients sue at rates one-fifth to one-tenth that of higher socioeconomic groups. While preparing a recent study on risk prevention related to medical malpractice in breast cancer,2I noted a similar effect specifically related to this disease. I write to corroborate the general findings of Burstin et al in the specific area of breast cancer malpractice litigation.Data are derived from three surveys of the professional liability claims experience of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) during the years 1987, 1990, and 1992.3 About 2000 members, or 10% of ACOG's membership, voluntarily responded to each year's survey. Tabulating the results from all three surveys, members reported 104 claims for breast cancer malpractice (largely failure to diagnose breast cancer) out of 1542 overall


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