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Malpractice Changed The Treatment Of Patients By Doctors

3498 words - 14 pages

It is safe to say that in the past 20 years or so, the number of cases in malpractice litigation has increased dramatically. This has had extremely adverse effects on the way doctors choose to treat their patients, the way patients view their doctors, and how society in general views the medical profession. Litigation, it seems, has become the most common response to a bad outcome. This is especially troubling since claims of malpractice generally occur when bad outcomes are combined with "bad feelings." Doctors are therefore pressured into making some sort of defensive decisions in order to protect themselves from lawsuits. Furthermore, this use of defensive medicine may even alter a doctor’s own personal practice or the practice of their institution. Unfortunately, all doctors – regardless of the type of medicine they practice, are prone to being sued throughout their medical career. However, it does appear that those practicing “higher liability” medical professions are the most likely recipients of lawsuits. In this paper, I will explore the use of defensive medicine according to physician specialty and attempt to find their relationship to medical malpractice.
Defining the term “defensive medicine” is crucial to the understanding of my project. In its most basic form, defensive medicine is “[the] practice of medicine centering, as its primary aim, around self-protection from liability in the event of a tragic outcome, rather than affording primacy to the patient's well-being…” (Hauser et al. 1991). Defensive medicine or defensive decision-making generally requires doctors to perform unnecessary tests and treatments for their patients. Many may also avoid taking care of “higher risk” patients, which includes “patients with comorbidities such as diabetes, liver disease, and cardiac, renal, lung, or immunosuppressed conditions” (citation). A study on defensive medicine from 1991 suggested “that a good part of the blame for increased litigation lay in the increasingly adversarial nature of the doctor-patient relationship even prior to the inherently adversarial nature of litigation proper” (Hauser et al. 1991). Therefore, defensive medicine may not only stem from an increasingly litigious response to “bad outcomes” but may actually cause such a response. When doctors are too concerned with their legal vulnerability, patients view it strongly as an emotional detachment from their care. This is what ultimately leads to the “deterioration of the[ir] therapeutic alliance” (Hauser at al. 1991). Ironically, defensive medicine seems to only exacerbate the very problem it is was supposed to solve. Instead of protecting physicians from lawsuits, it creates a bitter environment in which lawsuits are even more likely to occur, due to the bad feelings that are generated between doctor and patient.
Being able to understand the realm of malpractice law is both challenging and confusing, especially in the United States. Medical malpractice law has...

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