ArticlesEconomics

The problem of defensive medicine

Science  26 May 1978:
Vol. 200, Issue 4344, pp. 879-882
DOI: 10.1126/science.644329

Abstract

Defensive medicine--the use of diagnostic and end-treatment measures explicitly for the purposes of averting malpractice suits--is frequently cited as one of the least desirable effects of the current rise in medical litigation. Many physicians and policy-makers claim that defensive medicine is responsible not only for the increasing costs of health care but the exposing of patients to significant risks of harm from unnecessary procedures. Very little solid information is available about defensive medicine. The studies that have been conducted have been fraught with statistical difficulties and are by no means definitive. Even more important than the issue of defensive medicine is the more basic problem of our system of compensation for medical injuries.

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