Too much of a good thing? Are patients being over-treated?

Many medical malpractice suits involve a claim that doctors failed to provide medical care that was up to the standards of their profession. Often, these cases hinge on the question of whether the doctor did enough to help the patient. For example, a patient might allege that her doctor failed to diagnose a serious condition, and that therefore her condition worsened and she suffered harm because of that failure to diagnose.

However, there are other cases in which a medical provider did too much. For example, a doctor might overprescribe medication, or even perform unnecessary surgery.

A recent survey of 2,106 doctors found that many feel that over-treatment is extremely common. In fact, according to the survey more than 20 percent of all medical care may be unnecessary. Researchers said the survey suggests that 11.1 percent of procedures, 22 percent of prescriptions and nearly 25 percent of tests are medically unnecessary.

One of the main reasons cited by survey respondents for all this unnecessary care is the fear of medical malpractice lawsuits. They said they ordered medical care that was unnecessary because they feared that if they didn't, they might be sued for not doing their jobs in a professional manner.

The painful irony is, of course, that by performing unnecessary procedures or prescribing unnecessary medications, these same doctors may in some cases harm their patients and therefore commit one act of medical malpractice in an effort to avoid being sued for another.

Most medical providers are trying to do the best job they can whenever they treat a patient. Unfortunately, there are bad medical providers out there, and even the good ones can make mistakes. It is important to hold these doctors responsible when their mistakes cause harm to patients. For injured patients, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be crucial for recovering compensation for increased medical costs and other damages caused by medical mistakes.

Source: New York Times, "Overtreatment Is Common, Doctors Say," Nicholas Bakalar, Sept. 6, 2017

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