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Gut. 1998 Jan;42(1):139-42.

Reducing risks in gastroenterological practice.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, UK.


Eighty five malpractice claims against gastroenterologists have been analysed. Thirty seven (44%) arose from adverse events as a result of endoscopy and 48 (56%) from clinical practice. In 31 (84%) of the endoscopy cases (including all 13 endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographies) there seemed to be significant fault. In nine cases the procedure was not clearly indicated and in 10 recognition and treatment of the adverse event was delayed. In no case had the patient given adequate informed consent. Diagnostic error was responsible for most of the claims related to clinical practice (31 of 48) of which 13 were indefensible. Failure to obtain an adequate history (17 cases) and insufficient awareness of disorders of the small intense (12 cases) were major factors. In 26 cases a key investigation was not performed. Seventeen claims were related to management or treatment but only one of these cases was difficult to defend. Overall, there was evidence of serious fault in 50% of claims. Greater care in selecting patients for endoscopic procedures and in providing postprocedural care would have eliminated the basis of more than half the claims arising from endoscopy. There would have been few claims if properly informed consent had been obtained. Over-ready acceptance of the diagnosis of a functional disorder (for example, irritable bowel, dyspepsia) was the usual cause of delays in diagnosis.

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