Foreign Survey: Large Portion of Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine—Is that True in the US Too?

A survey originating out of Istanbul questioned 800 doctors from public and private hospitals and found that one-third of those responding to the survey refused to see patients with a serious condition requiring surgery or to perform a high-risk procedure. This was done to avoid the risk of losing the patient or being sued in the event of a mistake or complication that might arise in the difficult or risky surgery. This is a textbook example of defensive medicine.

Basically, defensive medicine is when the physician is not working to ensure the health of the patient, but to protect the physician against possible malpractice liability and is becoming more prolific in hospitals. Essentially, the fear is medical malpractice litigation.

But this is in another country. What about in the United States?

The study from the United States published last year found that most American doctors through their colleagues were ordering more patient tests and procedures than they actually needed, again, to protect themselves from lawsuits. In fact, researchers in a study found that 91 percent of 2,416 physicians though that defensive medicine was actually the NORM set forth.

So what does this mean for us? Most notably it costs about $60 billion in just defensive medicine alone just because doctors feel that they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. But is this bad a thing?
On one hand, it is costing us a whole lot of money, which the current health care reform is trying to prevent. Additionally, some of the past posts I have written about in the past few weeks have shown the dangers of over-treatment and unnecessary treatment which can actually cause more harm than good (i.e., false positives for breast cancer screening, prostate biopsies causing infections).

On the other hand, physicians are cognizant of medical malpractice liability and are practicing more THOROUGH medicine. Isn't this what we ultimately want? Protective and thorough health care for all? Sure, it cost more money, but isn't our health priceless? We aren't just talking about basic health care for increased costs, but for more important and larger-scale procedures. I for one would rather see doctors practicing defensive medicine to the extent that it can protect people's health even if it takes a hit to their wallet. However, I would want to make sure that certain procedures, which could cause other false positives, are kept to a minimum.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.
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