The Toledo Blade has an article today about defensive medicine, the doctrine that in fearing medical malpractice claims, as opposed to acting in the patient’s interests, doctors prescribe tests, medication and sends patients for referrals or follow-ups unwarranted by the circumstances.
First, some defensive medicine is good. If a doctor thinks he might be on the hook for not ordering a test down the road, I’d like him to perform that test on me 9 times out of 10. In the 10% of the time when the test is invasive or has significant risks, are doctors really going to order such a test to protect themselves from the unlikely event that there will be a malpractice claim that is covered under their medical malpractice insurance policy? I doubt it. And I don’t think I’m overestimating Ohio doctors.
The article quotes a Toledo medical malpractice lawyer who states the obvious: doctors can avoid malpractice concerns simply by following the appropriate standard of care. “And that’s a really good rule of thumb to go by. If you would want your own family member to go to the specialist to make sure [of a diagnosis], then that’s what you should do with everybody else. But most of the time, it may not be good to go to a specialist, and then they should use their own judgment. Time and again, the juries favor them when they do that, ‘I think they should be treating everybody as if it is their own family member.’” said Steve Collier.
Ironically, most doctors say that ordering unnecessary tests that are risky to the patients not only violates the oath they took when they signed up for the job, it is also committing medical malpractice.