Does Defensive Medicine Impact the Cost of Healthcare?

By Paul Giancola Healthcare in the United States costs at least two to three times as much as healthcare in other developed countries. One of the reasons usually given is defensive medicine – doctors who order unnecessary tests and procedures due to fear of being sued.  Some also argue that such treatments unnecessarily drive up the cost of care and expose patients to the risk of complications.  Surveys vary but a significant majority of physicians surveyed do report practicing some defensive medicine.  The reasons include: to avoid being named in a lawsuit, defensive medicine is the standard of care, patients demand that everything possible be done, fear of missing something, and peer pressure. By way of example, several recent studies showed that in stable patients with the same degree of coronary artery occlusion, stents yielded no benefit over noninvasive treatment, yet most cardiologists would recommend a stent. Common rationales were that they had heard of someone dying suddenly, they could better defend themselves in a lawsuit if the patient did get a stent and then died, and the stent would relieve patient anxiety. The draft of the original Affordable Care … Continue reading

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