It is a common idea: healthcare costs are so high because doctors are forced
to order unnecessary tests to protect themselves from liability in medical
malpractice lawsuits. Although this notion is widely held in society,
a recent study indicates that laws making it harder to sue doctors for
medical negligence do not reduce the amount of "defensive medicine"
practiced by doctors in states with those medical malpractice reform laws.
The New England Journal of Medicine study found that although "physicians
say they order unnecessary tests strictly out of fear of being sued."
In actuality, "the story is more complicated." The study looked
at the practices of emergency room doctors and associated health care
costs of emergency room treatment in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina
(three states that passed laws making it harder for injured patients to
recover in medical malpractice lawsuits against emergency room doctors).
The study considered three factors associated with defensive medicine:
1) ordering of advanced imaging such as CT or MRI scans, 2) whether the
patient was admitted to the hospital after an emergency room visit, and
3) the total billed charges for a patient's emergency room visit.
In Texas and South Carolina, the recent medical malpractice reform laws
caused no reduction in emergency room charges. In Georgia, average emergency
room bills were 3.6% less than before the implementation of the 2005 medical
malpractice reform laws.
The author of the study, Daniel Waxman, M.D., Ph.D., indicated that the
laws are "legislation looking for a problem that doesn't exist."
He stressed that most emergency room doctors are not ordering extra tests
in an effort to protect themselves from liability but because emergency
room doctors have to make decisions with limited information while avoiding
causing harm to the patient and not wanting to say "No" to a
patient: "In the ER, you have to make snap judgments on incomplete
information. Nobody ever faults you for doing another test or admitting
a patient to the hospital, but there are lots of ways you can be faulted
for not doing those things."
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it appears that the legal system
and medical negligence lawsuits have become a scapegoat for the costs
of modern healthcare. However, in reality, the implementation of medical
malpractice reform laws have had little effect on healthcare costs or
how emergency room doctors diagnose and treat patients.
If you have sustained injuries from medical negligence, seek legal guidance
and protect your rights!
Hartley & O'Brien, PLLC provides aggressive, dedicated representation
and quality legal advice to our clients who have been injured as a result
of medical negligence. With more than 30 years of experience, our team
of personal injury attorneys understands our clients' needs after
they experience negligent medical care and fights to provide our clients
with full compensation under the law. Call today and speak with one of
our team members from our Wheeling or Charleston office!