In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Dr. Sanjay Gupta claims that doctors often practice “defensive medicine,” ordering unnecessary tests in order to avoid malpractice lawsuits. In theory, if doctors test for everything, they can catch mistakes. However, Dr. Gupta argues that more tests lead to more false positives, more medication, and more errors. His solution? Discuss all errors, and empower employees, like nurses, to confront senior doctors about concerns and mistakes.
The blogosphere exploded in reaction to Dr. Gupta’s article. Many reactions agree with his op-ed, that more medical errors occur because of misdiagnosis. Gupta’s article quotes a 1999 Report from the Institute of Medicine, stating that 98,000 people died every year due to medical mistakes, and it is likely the number has increased since the study was conducted. One article even estimates that as many as 200,000 patients die every year due to medical error.
One blog argues against Dr. Gupta. The author, Eric Turkewitz, cites a law implemented in Texas in 2003 that attempts to reduce the impact of medical malpractice suits by limiting the payout ($250,000). With a cap on payouts, the law aimed to limit the number of lawsuits brought forward, and also bring more doctors to the state and lower overall medical costs. Turkewitz points out that the last two efforts failed.
The reason for fewer lawsuits, of course, is that medical malpractice cases are so difficult, expensive and risky to bring, that lawyers can’t afford to take smaller suits.
If you chop out the significant issue of pain and suffering, you are left with economic loss. And if the patient makes just a modest living, that economic loss component would also be low. Lawyers won’t take the cases because lawyers also have mortgages to pay and offices to run. It’s basic economics. The victim is left in the cold looking at the closed courthouse door.
Turkewitz continues to point out that yes, doctors order more tests to help prevent medical malpractice suits, but they also want to search for every possibility and underlying cause.
But more tests also means more expenses for the patient. In another New York Time article, Tara Parker-Pope describes a troubling experience with her daughter’s doctors. Having waited, upon pediatric advice, for her daughter’s sprained ankle to heal, she sought a second opinion. The new specialist took several vials of blood and an MRI, received ambiguous results on blood tests, and referred the child to several more specialists. After months of testing and doctors visits with no conclusive results, Parker-Pope’s daughter still had a sore ankle.
Parker-Pope was lucky to have insurance comprehensive enough to cover all the tests. Most Americans are not, and still, government medical spending is higher than many other countries.
While many doctors aim to do their best, errors due to overconfidence or lack of knowledge do still occur. Drug companies like Takeda Pharmaceuticals or Johnson & Johnson push medical devices and drugs into the market without proper testing, and doctors can prescribe treatments that have more adverse side effects. It is important, as a patient, to ask questions of each test and course of treatment prescribed by your doctor. If you are not satisfied with the answer, you are well within your rights to ask for a second opinion.
If you have experienced life-changing side effects because of medical treatment, you are not alone. You may be entitled to compensation. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Strom Law, LLC, accept clients in South Carolina and all over the nation. We will fight to protect you from medical malpractice. Please contact us today for a free consultation to get you on the road to recovery. 803.252.4800
Do more tests lead to more malpractice lawsuits? Should doctors look at every possible problem and attempt to diagnose it? Or, do you think it is important for doctors to look for answers to protect the patient’s health? Let us know in the comments!