What Is Defensive Medicine And Why It Hurts Patients In More Ways Than One

Medication Errors

At first, defensive medicine might sound like a good thing. Many people think it is just conduct by the physician that essentially crosses their “i’s” and dots their “t’s” to ensure the patient is cared for without any harm. In fact, this not only sounds laudable but some may even think doctors should be required to practice medicine in this manner.

Yet, this really is not the case. Defensive medicine is a fear of litigation from doctors where their conduct is not to diagnose or treat the patient, but to safeguard against the possibility of malpractice liability. In fact, it was estimated amongst physicians that approximately 79% or more of the procedures performed are actually defensive medicine.

But why is this bad? Well for one thing, it completely drives up the cost of health care procedures. Simply because physicians are performing more procedures—most which are unnecessary—to prevent themselves from liability as opposed to performing the procedures because the patient actually needs the treatment or diagnosis. It was actually estimated that defense medicine costs the United States between $650 and $850 billion annually.

Another reason is that it can actually cause more harm than good to patients. For example, the number of CT scans has significantly increased from 1981 when it was 3 million, of over 70 million today. Granted, that number is also because the costs of a CT scan has gone down and CT scans are more available, but that is a massive increase which is not just a cause of these other factors. It is well-know that CT scans are one of the precautions that many health care providers use to help protect themselves from liability and rule out potential harmful conditions. However, too many CT scans is actually going to be exposing patients unnecessarily to radiation. Therefore, in trying to protect themselves from every possible issue a patient may have, physicians may end up putting patient’s in harm’s way.

In fact, defensive medicine has actually been known to kill a patient. In one case, a 40-year-old woman who sought treatment for slight chest pains. Even though no one thought she was having a heart attack—and because she was not exhibiting any of the symptoms of a heart attack—the medical team still performed multiple procedures on her to check and ensure they were not missing any signs. Physicians became concerned and performed a coronary catheterization. However, during this procedure staff accidently perforated her artery and ended up killing him. It turned out that she never had any heart attacks beyond simple heartburn.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com . 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.