A large survey of lawsuits against doctors in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France and Canada has revealed something interesting about the source for most medical malpractice lawsuits.

Multnomah County residents might think doctors are most often sued for terrible, drastic things, like botched surgeries. However, this study found that doctors are most often sued on the grounds of missed diagnosis or failure to diagnose.

The study, which was performed by Irish researchers and was published in the British Medical Journal Open on July 18, confirms several other studies we have heard of that also attribute most medical lawsuits to missed diagnosis or failure to diagnose.

Cancer, heart attacks, appendicitis, ectopic pregnancies and bone fractures lead the list for conditions or ailments that were allegedly missed by doctors. Alarmingly, "death" was the most common side effect of allegedly missed diagnoses that led to lawsuits.

Although patients can always seek a second opinion, that simply is not practicable in many situations. If you are having a heart attack, for example, you need the right medical treatment immediately; time is of the essence and comparison shopping is not possible.

That is why we say it is the medical community's responsibility to do what it can to make sure that its members are able to correctly identify conditions and recommend courses of treatment. Even very engaged, proactive patients cannot manage their health on their own.

If you are ever harmed and you believe that a missed diagnosis is to blame, please know that you may have legal options.

Source: CBS News, "Most common medical malpractice claims for missed cancer, heart attacks," Ryan Jaslow, July 19, 2013