ER doctors: Lawsuit fears lead to overtesting

side note: One of the most serious problems associated with today’s hostile medical liability climate is defensive medicine; doctors are afraid of being sued for the slightest lapse and order tests or carry out procedures they do not truly believe are necessary.  Defensive medicine is partially responsible for the recent steep rise in the number of Caesarian Sections performed.  Most objections to defensive medicine focus on the massive drain on resources that it causes, and the way that increases healthcare costs for consumers.  This article from the Associated Press highlights the human in addition to the economic costs.  Repeated exposure to radiation in x-ray’s and CT scans creates an increased risk for cancer.  Defensive medicine is an issue that must be addressed quickly and strongly, through tort reform and other changes to the medical liability system.

by Lindsey Tanner
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) – Fast decisions on life-and-death cases are the bread and butter of hospital emergency rooms. Nowhere do doctors face greater pressures to overtest and overtreat.

The fear of missing something weighs heavily on every doctor’s mind. But the stakes are highest in the ER, and that fear often leads to extra blood tests and imaging scans for what may be harmless chest pains, run-of-the-mill head bumps, and non-threatening stomachaches.

Many ER doctors say the No. 1 reason is fear of malpractice lawsuits. “It has everything to do with it,” said Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

read the rest of the article

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