Medical Malpractice

Study of Pa. Surgeons Finds One-Fifth of Tests Ordered Because of Lawsuit Fears

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A new study confirms the conventional wisdom: Physicians order unnecessary tests because they fear lawsuits.

The study asked 72 orthopedic surgeons in Pennsylvania to check a box indicating whether the medical tests they ordered were needed for clinical care or done for defensive purposes, the Washington Post reports. One-fifth of the tests were done for defensive reasons, and they accounted for 35 percent of the costs.

Doctors who have been sued in the last five years were more likely to order the defensive tests, while newer doctors were less likely to order them.

The news comes as President Obama introduced a proposed budget that includes money to help states rewrite malpractice laws and test reforms, MedPage Today reports. According to the Justice Department, the reforms could include:

• Creation of special health courts with specially trained judges to review med-mal cases.

• Adoption of safe harbors for physicians who adhere to best practices.

• Barring from evidence physicians’ admissions of mistakes, apologies and offers of fair compensation.

Obama has said he is opposed to med-mal damages caps, however.

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