1
Interactions

Although individual physicians practice all forms of specialized medicine, they have all learned the skills of defensive medicine to one degree or another. 

     “Defensive medicine can be simply defined as medical responses undertaken to avoid liability rather than to benefit the patient,” wrote Richard E. Andersen, M.D. in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 1999.

Dr. Andersen goes on to argue that this risk-averse behavior could be said to “violate the Hippocratic Oath, [do] violence to the doctor-patient relationship, and is manifestly self-serving for the physician.” But he then points out that standards of service have been adjusted to permit levels of tests and procedures that were once viewed as unnecessary.  The resultant increase in such procedures as caesarian deliveries and use of fetal heart monitors, Dr. Andersen argues, adds costs to the healthcare system, while providing very little additional protection to the patient.

According to some experts, costs associated with defensive medicine far exceed losses from malpractice cases, which tend to be a tiny part of overall health care expenses.  It is the threat of malpractice litigation that some believe has raised American health care costs to amounts that far exceed the rest of the world.

The conservative-leaning Washington Times reported back in 2009 that Harvard researcher Amitabh Chandra estimated the cost of defensive medicine at $60 billion annually.  “Other research places the yearly cost at roughly $200 billion,” the article stated without attribution.

According to a 2010 article by liberal-leaning NPR, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) – a doctor himself – claimed on the Republican website America Speaks Out that the cost of defensive medicine runs $650 billion annually – nearly 25 percent of the nation’s entire healthcare bill.  But the NPR article then brings out its own Harvard health care cost expert who argues that most of the current cost estimates for defensive medicine are – in her words – “quite imaginative.”

She’s Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health, who performed a study for the scholarly publication Health Affairs in 2010.  She and her colleagues found that the total cost of medical malpractice-related expenses in the health care system, including defensive medicine, is about $55.6 billion per year, or about 2.4 percent of annual health care spending. Defensive medicine is about 80 percent of that total.

With numbers that swing from one extreme to the other, it’s wise for the average voter to consider the source of the information we try to grapple with as it pertains to an issue as complex as healthcare cost.  A friend of mine, who is a physician, got me started thinking beyond the limited cost of litigation and into the broader area of defensive medicine.  It made sense to me that there’s a lot more expense that goes into preventing litigation than there is in actual court cases, but the extreme high and low end claims in some of the source material seems politically motivated.  Amazingly, the two Harvard studies mentioned in separate articles from left and right-leaning publications reach nearly identical and relatively unsurprising conclusions. 

I also hear the echo of ambulance chasers whenever one of those BAD DRUG ads comes on the radio or television.  They make me believe that there are law firms out there trying to stir the pot just to make a profit for themselves, and I have to believe those firms are adding unnecessary costs to the healthcare system as well.

About the Author

Alan Markow
Alan Markow

Alan Markow has been a professional writer and communicator for over 40 years. He has been a senior corporate communications executive for major companies in high technology, telecommunications, banking and chemicals. During the Vietnam era, he served as a Navy journalist and broadcaster. He has blogged for IVN.org since its inception. Alan’s personal political views range from liberal to libertarian

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

0 comments
Leave a Comment
  1. zhuweiming1100 < coach outlet http://www.coachoutletstore.com.co swarovski uk http://www.swarovskioutlet.org.uk oakley sunglasses canada http://oakleysunglasses.globeasia.ca chanel handbags http://www.chanelhandbags.co supra shoes http://www.suprashoes.name cartier love bracelet http://cartierlovebracelet.bemercurial.com prada shoes http://www.pradashoes.us michael kors uk http://www.michaelkorsbags.uk true religion jeans http://www.truereligionjeansoutlet.net oakland raiders jerseys http://www.oaklandraidersjerseys.us cheap soccer jerseys http://www.cheapsoccerjersey.net tommy hilfiger outlet http://www.tommyhilfigers.net minnesota vikings jerseys http://www.minnesotavikingsjersey.us cheap nike shoes http://www.cheap-nikeshoes.cc coach outlet canada http://www.coachoutletcanada.com.co koby bryant shoes http://www.kobebryantshoes.in.net nike roshe http://www.nikerosherunshoes.co.uk juicy couture outlet http://www.juicycoutureoutlet.net nike trainers http://www.niketrainers.me.uk mizuno running http://www.mizunorunningshoes.us new york knicks jersey http://www.newyorkknicksjerseys.com bottega veneta outlet http://www.bottegaveneta-outlet.net kate spade outlet http://www.katespadeoutletonline.com dallas cowboys jersey http://www.dallascowboysjersey.us ralph lauren uk http://www.ralphlaurenoutletuk.org.uk stuart weitzman boots http://www.stuartweitzmanoutlet.us coach outlet http://www.coachoutletstores.com.co air jordan 13 http://www.airjordan13s.com chicago blackhawks jersey http://www.chicagoblackhawksjersey.us nike outlet store http://www.nikeoutletstore.us oakley sunglasses http://www.oakleysunglassesonline.us.com indianapolis colts jerseys http://www.indianapoliscoltsjersey.us san francisco 49ers jerseys http://www.sanfrancisco49ersjerseys.us mulberry outlet http://www.mulberryoutlet.com.co fivefingers shoes http://fivefingersshoes.saynotoarcticdrilling.org evening dresses http://www.eveningdressesoutlet.net cheap football shirts http://www.cheapfootballshirt.org.uk barcelona jersey http://www.barcelonajerseys.net nike huarache http://www.nikeairhuarache.org.uk beats headphones http://www.beats-headphones.in.net chicago bulls jersey http://www.chicagobullsjerseys.net philadelphia eagles jerseys http://www.philadelphiaeaglesjersey.us the north face outlet http://www.northface-outlet.cc lebron james shoes http://www.lebronjamesshoes.in.net nba jerseys http://www.nbajerseys.net michael kors uk http://www.michaelkorshandbag.co.uk real madrid jersey http://www.realmadridjerseystore.com canada goose outlet http://www.canadagoose.us.org dansko outlet http://www.dansko-shoes.us mbt shoes http://www.mbtshoesoutlet.us.com pittsburgh steelers jersey http://www.pittsburghsteelersjersey.com kansas city chiefs jerseys http://www.kansascitychiefs.us nhl jerseys http://www.nhljerseys.us.com new england patriots jerseys http://www.newenglandpatriotsjerseys.us chicago bears jerseys http://www.chicagobearsjerseys.us lebron james shoes http://www.lebronjames.us.com nike free uk http://www.nikefreerunning.org.uk washington redskins jerseys http://www.washingtonredskinsjersey.com the north face jackets http://www.thenorthfacejacket.us.com baltimore ravens jerseys http://www.baltimoreravensjerseys.us miami heat jersey http://www.miamiheatjerseys.net los angeles lakers jerseys http://www.lakersjerseys.us ysl outlet http://www.ysloutletonline.com michael kors outlet uk http://www.michaelkorsoutlet.org.uk boston celtics jersey http://www.celticsjersey.com seattle seahawks jerseys http://www.seattleseahawksjersey.us cheap wedding dresses http://www.cheap-weddingdresses.net the north face uk http://www.thenorthfaces.org.uk nike air max uk http://www.nikeairmaxshoes.org.uk san antonio spurs jerseys http://www.sanantoniospursjersey.com vans shoes http://www.vans-shoes.cc oklahoma city thunder jerseys http://www.thunderjerseystore.com atlanta falcons jersey http://www.atlantafalconsjersey.us gucci shoes http://www.guccishoes.cc new york jets jerseys http://www.newyorkjetsjersey.us chanel outlet http://www.chaneloutletstore.us.com hermes birkin http://www.hermesbirkin.org new york giants jerseys http://www.newyorkgiants.us arizona cardinals jerseys http://www.arizonacardinalsjersey.us north face outlet http://www.thenorthface.me los angeles clippers jerseys http://www.clippersjerseystore.com moncler coats http://www.moncler.us.com christian louboutin uk http://www.christianlouboutinoutlet.org.uk nike running shoes http://www.nikerunningshoes.cc the north face clearance http://www.thenorthfaceclearances.us.com tory burch outlet http://www.toryburch-outlet.us.com ray ban sunglasses http://www.raybansunglasses.co air jordan shoes http://www.airjordanshoes.us.org chelsea jersey http://www.chelseajerseystore.com custom mlb jerseys http://www.custommlbjerseys.us hermes outlet http://www.hermesoutlet.com.co air max 90 http://www.airmax90.us.com michael kors outlet http://www.michaelkorsfactoryoutlet.us.org mulberry uk http://www.mulberry-outletuk.uk nike free http://www.nikefreerunning.org north face jackets http://www.thenorthfaces.in.net golden state warriors jerseys http://www.warriorsjersey.com hermes belt http://www.hermesbelts.us air max 2015 http://www.airmax2015.com ugg boots http://uggboots.shoeshine.cc cleveland cavaliers jersey http://www.cavaliersjerseys.net denver broncos jerseys http://www.denverbroncos.org air max 2014 http://www.airmax2014.net futbol baratas http://www.futbol-baratas.com miami dolphins jerseys http://www.miamidolphinsjersey.com burberry outlet http://www.burberryoutletusa.com nike free 5.0 http://www.nikefree5.us tory burch outlet http://toryburch.outletstore.com.co manchester united jersey http://www.manchesterunitedonline.com the north face outlet store http://www.thenorthfaceoutletstores.org green bay packers jerseys http://www.greenbaypackersjersey.us soccer shoes http://www.nikemercurial.org new orleans saints jerseys http://www.neworleanssaintsjerseys.us ugg uk http://www.cheapuggboots.me.uk rolex watches uk http://www.rolexwatches-uk.co.uk zhuweiming0624