There are many lively discussions out there about how malpractice law affects the practice of medicine. However, not everything you’ll find on the subject is completely accurate.
Keep reading to learn how a prominent myth is debunked regarding malpractice law’s impact on the practice of medicine.
While there is no precise definition of defensive medicine, the premise is based on the idea that doctors can provide unnecessary tests or medical treatments in order to avoid being sued. Essentially, this idea claims that physicians make decisions about their patients’ care based on their own legal self-interest, rather than the medical needs of the patients.
For instance, a common argument used by medical lobbyists is that emergency room (ER) physicians order imaging tests like CAT and MRI scans needlessly. The idea behind this is that ER doctors can be sued if they don’t order the tests and an issue is found later.
Since these tests can be very costly, it is argued that defensive medicine increases overall healthcare costs without increasing the quality of care.
The Falsehoods Behind Defensive Medicine
The truth is, defensive medicine is more of a medical industry facade than it is a reality. You see, physicians are frequently offered financial incentives to provide irrelevant tests, which has nothing to do with the real fear of malpractice liability.
This commonly believed legend is perpetuated by industry lobbyists in order to drive fear into the public. This is done so that the general public will support half-baked tort reform proposals that will place limits on patients’ abilities to pursue legal solutions against reckless physicians.
Defensive Medicine is Unethical
The part about these practices that the medical industry lobbyists don’t mention is that they are highly unethical. When doctors order tests that patients don’t need, it’s a waste of time for the patients as well as a waste of hospital resources.
In addition, doing so is highly illegal. The majority of physicians and hospitals handle Medicare, which is the most immense government healthcare financier. According to Medicare qualification guidelines, a provider mustn’t pursue compensation for any treatment that isn’t “reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury.”
Said simply, if a physician provides a test that they know isn’t needed and then bills Medicare for it, the physician has broken the False Claims Act law.
The physician is not allowed to use defense reasoning that the test was provided in order to avoid being sued later. Doctors are not allowed to obtain payment for treatments that do not support the acknowledgment or enrichment of the patient’s health.
Medical Industry Costs Are Too High
Plain and simple, it is the medical industry standard to overcharge patients. Since Medicare and private insurers only compensate medical providers on a “fee-for-service” basis, doctors aren’t often motivated to limit charges.
In contrast, personal injury attorneys are incentivized to provide adequate representation because they work on a contingency-fee-basis. In other words, personal injury attorneys only receive compensation if the outcome they produce is in favor of their client.
Tort Reform Doesn’t Impact Defensive Medicine
According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, tort reforms “had little effect” on the prevalence of CT or MRI scans in areas where medical industry-backed reforms were put in place.
This study solidifies the idea that the practices behind defensive medicine are generally untrue. The research provides evidence that physicians are not ordering tests because they’re afraid of being sued.
It’s wise to keep in mind that the vast majority of medical malpractice cases don’t necessitate a time-consuming trial. This fact further undermines the idea behind defensive medicine and tort reform.
We’re Here to Help
If you’ve been harmed due to a failed diagnosis, medication error, or any other form of medical malpractice, you may be owed compensation. Our attorneys here at Garau Germano, P.C. are highly skilled in medical malpractice law and have helped hundreds of other people just like you obtain justice. Don’t allow those who’ve been negligent in your care get away with their ineptitude. Contact our office with your case right away—we’re here to answer any questions you may have.