Survey Says: 9 of 10 Physicians Blame Lawsuit Fears for Overtesting

The results were resounding, and added more substance to the notion that the fear of being sued pervades the practice of medicine.  In a survey of 1,231 physicians across the country, more than 90 percent of responding physicians blamed the fear of being sued for overtesting – one facet of medical care usually cited in any discussion of cost containment. 

The survey was published Monday [June 28] in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and its findings echoed a recent Associated Press news story that said fears of lawsuits are the main reason for overtreating in the emergency department.

The survey asked but two questions: “Do physicians order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves from malpractice suits?” And, “Are protections against unwarranted malpractice lawsuits needed to decrease the unnecessary use of diagnostic tests?” Ninety-one percent of respondents, who included emergency physicians, surgeons, primary care doctors and other specialists, agreed with both statements. 

Dr. Tara Bishop, co-author of the study and an internist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, told AP that the results agree with what she hears from colleagues, that defensive medicine costs the health care system billions of dollar a year, and that many doctors fear being sued even when they follow standard-of-care guidelines.

The findings are also consistent with the results of several other surveys, including the MMS Survey on Defensive Medicine, published in 2008.

  1. Joseph R. Barrie, M. D. says:

    I would like to see an example of a situation in which an unwarranted test avoided a frivolous lawsuit.

    This line of reasoning defies both fact and logic, and reflects the hysteria and paranoia that medical organizations feed to their constituents.

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