Posted by Bill Sandweg on 08 August 2011.
Myth #4: Doctors order many expensive, unnecessary tests because they fear medical malpractice suits.
Ther are two things you need to know about this myth. In the first place, there is no way to prove it or to disprove it. Even though it has never been proved and can’t be proved, it has become an article of faith for those who claim malpractice cases are out of control. It just gets repeated so often that people come to believe it must be true.
The second thing you need to know is that before a doctor orders a test, medical ethics require that he or she conclude it is in the best interests of the patient to order the test. A doctor who orders a test for his or her benefit and not for the benefit of the patient is acting unethically. If asked, I doubt that many physicians would say that they order tests for their own benefit and not for the benefit of their patients. Most likely they would say that they order all tests for the benefit of their patients but order more than they might otherwise order because of malpractice concerns. This, of course, is quite a different thing than ordering a test which is of no value in treating the patient.
Frankly, if I am being treated or my family is being treated, I want the doctor to be careful and to cover all the necessary bases in ordering tests, regardless of the doctor’s motivation.