Part of the push for medical malpractice tort reform as part of the overall Health Care Reform package is the argument that medical liability reform will reduce the practice of “defensive medicine” — the practice of doctors ordering “unnecessary” tests because the doctor is afraid of missing a diagnosis, and then being found to have committed medical negligence. The insurance lobby has argued that defensive medicine increases health care costs over $100 billion annually.
The argument against defensive medicine can be summed up in a CBS News article carrying the headline, “When Doctors Cover Bases By Ordering Extra Tests, It Can Cost Patients Big.” The story goes on to discuss the increase in health care costs, in the form of rising deductibles and co-payments, from defensive medicine.
My response to this CBS News article would be titled, “When Doctors Fail To Cover Bases By Ordering Extra Tests, It Can Cost Patients Their Lives.” Thus, even in the CBS News story, it discusses how a young girl presented to the emergency room with stomach pain, and the doctors ordered a CT scan, which found a harmless ovarian cyst. The patient was shocked to see that the bill for the CT scan was $6,500. However, the hospital defended the ordering of the CT scan, saying that simply ordering an ultrasound, without a CT scan, “might have missed something more serious”, like appendicitis, kidney stone or worse.
While the insurance lobby calls this practice “defensive medicine,” I call it “proactive medicine.”
The fact is, approximately 100,00 people die each year in the United States from medical negligence. That number does not include the thousands of other individuals and families whose lives are devastated from permanent injuries caused by medical error. These are the facts with doctors practicing, as the insurance lobby calls it, “defensive medicine.” Proponents of medical liability reform say that defensive medicine costs billions of dollars in the form of increased health care costs.
Here is a question that needs to be answered: If doctors are currently practicing defensive medicine, what is the cost stopping this practice? What is the cost of not ordering a CT scan or other test to rule out a more serious medical condition?
The insurance lobby does not want to answer that question because the answer is thousands more people will die annually from medical error, and thousands more will suffer devastating injuries from medical malpractice, if medical liability reform is passed.
We will continue to fight for victims of medical negligence, and ensure their rights are protected. To speak with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, call Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500 for a free consultation.