Medical Malpractice and Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Michael G. Kantrowitz


Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2022;38(5):467-471. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of Review: Medical liability is a perennial issue that most physicians will face at some point in their careers. Gastroenterologists routinely perform endoscopic procedures to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Advances in endoscopic techniques and technology have accelerated movement of the field into a more surgical realm. These developments warrant consideration of pitfalls that may expose gastroenterologists to liability. This review will explore trends in malpractice facing gastroenterologists and offer strategies to deliver high quality and safe patient care.

Recent Findings: Despite being a procedure-oriented subspeciality, only a minority of malpractice claims against gastroenterologists are related to procedures. Diagnostic error is among the most prevalent reason for lawsuits. The consequences of malpractice are costly due litigation and indemnity as well as the increase in defensive medical practice. Improving diagnostic quality, optimizing informed consent, and enhancing patient–physician communication are important elements of risk mitigation.

Summary: Understanding the important role that diagnosis plays in medical liability allows physicians to better evaluate risk and apply deliberate decision-making in order to practice confidently.


Understanding risk of medical liability litigation is an important reality for physicians practicing in the United States. According to the Physician Benchmark Survey performed by the American Medical Association (AMA),[1] approximately one-third of practicing US physicians have had a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against them. That figure increases to half of all physicians age 55 years and older.[2] The burden of medical malpractice has significant implications for the quality, cost, and safety of care delivery. Although most physicians can reasonably expect to be involved in a malpractice proceeding at some point in their careers, there are strategies to both prevent and successfully overcome them. Gastroenterologists have been found to have a higher numbers of claims but lower indemnity payments than all physicians as a whole.[3] This review will define the malpractice landscape for gastroenterologists including historical trends, specific vulnerabilities, and future directions.