Litigation and radiology: medicolegal cases involving diagnostic radiology in South Africa
INTRODUCTION: Litigation may involve radiology personnel radiological reports and imaging studies as evidence and therefore influences clinical practice. Litigation is implicated in defensive radiology practices. There are no publications addressing litigation and radiology specifically for South Africa. AIM: To determine the number of legal cases involving radiological personnel and radiological investigations in South Africa and frequency of citing of these within the law reports. METHOD: The search engine attached to The Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) website was searched systematically for the period 2001 to 2010 with keywords relating to radiologists, radiographers and equipment / imaging modalities using a frequency ‘citation’ score. RESULTS: 114 legal cases involving radiological personnel and radiological investigations in South Africa were identified (0.5% of all cases reported). Few radiologists have been sued in medicolegal lawsuits, but nearly a quarter of all radiology medicolegal reports, involved radiologists providing expert opinion and reports. In addition to being the commonest imaging investigation to feature in medicolegal reports (in over two thirds), plain X-rays also had the highest citation scores. CONCLUSIONS: Very few radiologists have been the accused in medicolegal suits, yet radiologists were involved in nearly a quarter of reports, predominantly providing expert opinion and reports. Plain X-rays were the commonest imaging investigation to feature but CT scanning featured in 20% of reports. This is of particular concern because this is considered an advanced technology, not widely available in South Africa.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Medicine in Diagnostic Radiology Johannesburg, 2014.