Maybe “Defensive Medicine” Is Simply The Kind Of Medicine You’d Want Your Doctor To Practice?

emergency_room_3.jpgI’ve blogged a lot about the claim that medical malpractice lawsuits force doctors to practice “defensive medicine” – that is, to order unnecessary tests and procedures to protect themselves in malpractice lawsuits. I’ve also blogged about empirical evidence suggesting that doctors’ performing “unnecessary” tests and procedures may be due to the financial incentives that they face: they get paid for the procedures they do, not the results they obtain.
At any rate, yesterday, in a link roundup post, the “tort reform” blog Overlawyered stated that “defensive medicine isn’t a myth” and linked to a number of news articles in support of that claim. One of the articles, by Newsweek‘s Sharon Begley, quoted an Emergency Room doctor who says that he routinely admits “low-risk” chest pain patients, “because I know at some point in my career, one of them will go home and die from a heart attack. I will admit hundreds to avoid that one death (and possible [medical malpractice] lawsuit).”
Wow, if that’s defensive medicine, please give me some of that when I show up in the Emergency Room. The ER doc believes that admitting the low-risk patients will, over the course of his career, save at least one life. But he doesn’t think it’s worth doing.
Why? If you told me that I would save one life over the course of my career, I’d consider myself, on net, to have done well. When I went to the grave, I would score myself a +1.
But this doc couldn’t be bothered to save that extra life. I guess the toil and trouble of performing all these tests whose outcomes he knows in advance (except for that one case where his gut is wrong) is too much work to justify saving a single life.
The doctor’s attitude is also contrary to the standards of professional ethics. Doctors, like lawyers, owe a duty to their patients. The patient should come first for the doctor, just like the client comes first for the lawyer.
The only way this doctor can say that the EKGs or whatever tests he administers to patients reporting chest pains are unjustified is by some sort of cost-benefit analysis (e.g., over the course of his career, the doctor will administer 10,000 EKGs at a price of $10,000 a pop and that $100,000,000 total cost is greater, in dollar values, than the benefits of the life saved thereby). But doctors aren’t supposed to be bean counters; they’re supposed to give their patients the best care regardless of the cost.
If medical malpractice is leading to defensive medicine and defensive medicine is what saves my life, thank goodness for medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you have been injured by a doctor and require the services of a Boston medical malpractice lawyer, call The Law Office of Alan H. Crede today at (617)973-6434 for a free consultation.