Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

Justinian Lane's Blog

Justinian's Blog

Yet another thought on defensive medicine

I saw an article today about a purported malpractice crisis in Massachusetts, and wanted to comment on this quote:

Even more expensive is the cost of “defensive medicine.” Faced with the possibility of huge malpractice judgments, physicians may feel it necessary to order tests, treatments and procedures that are of negligible medical use — knowing that, if they are not ordered, the omission is apt to figure in some future lawsuit.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette News

The omission of a test is only apt to figure into a malpractice lawsuit if there might have been a positive outcome for the patient had the test been run.  To take an extreme example: no matter what symptoms I displayed, no doctor would ever order a pregnancy test.  Doctors only order tests that the results of which might be necessary to treat the patient.  And who do these tests hurt?  Not the doctor, because they get paid for them.  Not the patient, as these "unnecessary" tests sometimes result in a life being saved. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I *want* my physician to be defensive.  If there's something wrong with me, I want him to leave no stone unturned in finding and curing my illness.  I sure as hell don't want a doctor to decide that there's only a small chance I have cancer and end up having to lose a testicle because the doctor guessed wrong.  Do you?