Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Says Study on Defensive Medicine Raises Concerns

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Encouraging medical students to make treatment decisions based on the threat of a negligence lawsuit places patients at undue risk, says Illinois medical malpractice attorney Patrick A. Salvi.

medical malpractice, medical negligence, medical errors, defensive medicine, medical liability, lawyer, attorney, personal injury, wrongful death, lawsuit, Chicago, Waukegan, Illinois

Chicago medical malpractice lawyer Patrick A. Salvi

When a doctor orders a series of extra tests or prescribes multiple medications, we shouldn’t have to question whether it’s an attempt to fully tackle a patient’s condition or to avoid a lawsuit.

A recently released study finding that medical students have observed “defensive medicine” while in training raises concerns about patient safety, Chicago medical malpractice lawyer Patrick A. Salvi said today.

Defensive medicine refers to medical practices that are performed due to a perceived threat of a medical malpractice lawsuit, such ordering unneeded tests or avoiding high-risk procedures.

According to the study in this month’s Academic Medicine journal, 94 percent of medical students at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago reported seeing physicians take liability into consideration when making treatment decisions for their patients

“Most physicians truly are committed to providing quality and ethical care to their patients,” said Salvi of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., whose Chicago medical malpractice attorneys represent clients throughout Chicago and across Illinois.

“However, the fact that students appear to be seeing ‘defensive medicine’ regularly raises great concerns about whose needs are truly being served – the doctor or the patient,” Salvi said.

Salvi said that defensive medicine could increase the risk of physician errors instead of preventing them.

“When a doctor orders a series of extra tests or prescribes multiple medications, we shouldn’t have to question whether it’s an attempt to fully tackle a patient’s condition or to avoid a lawsuit,” the Chicago medical negligence lawyer said.

“Doctors who chart the course of a patient’s treatment based on a fear of a negligence suit have lost their focus, which is certainly a breach of trust and legally could be a deviation from the accepted standard of care.”

Of the 200 medical students surveyed in the study, nearly half reported seeing physicians order more tests than medically indicated. Other forms of defensive medicine witnessed by students in the study included:

  •     Suggesting invasive procedures to confirm diagnoses;
  •     Avoiding specific types of procedures;
  •     Avoiding treating high-risk patients; and
  •     Referring patients to specialists unnecessarily.

Instead of teaching defensive medicine, doctors should teach students to avoid possible cases of negligence by exercising vigilant care, Salvi said. That would focus on the patient’s problems, not on situations that have yet to occur.

“The fear of medical malpractice litigation should not dictate medical professionals’ behavior,” Salvi said. “If their actions cause personal injuries or irreparable harm, patients can use the law to hold them accountable.”

Medical negligence can occur in all types of settings. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals and others may be held liable for medical mistakes.

“Our law firm’s attorneys have handled numerous medical negligence cases relating to surgical errors, birth injuries, medication errors, failures to diagnose medical conditions and emergency room mistakes,” Salvi said. “Illinois’ medical malpractice laws provide victims with an avenue to seek compensation for their injuries.”

Compensation in personal injury or wrongful death suits can include money to cover medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering and other damages.

“It is important to know what types of legal action may be possible if a patient is injured in a medical setting,” Salvi said. “Many law firms, such as our own, offer free first consultations to anyone who thinks they may have a claim. We strongly encourage people to reach out for help if they have been wronged.”

About Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.

Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is a leading Illinois medical malpractice law firm with offices in Chicago and Waukegan. The firm represents clients in matters involving emergency room errors, failure to diagnose, hospital negligence, physician error, birth injuries, surgical malpractice, anesthesia errors, organ puncture/perforation, post-operative and pre-operation malpractice and surgical complications. The firm’s success in medical negligence, personal injury and wrongful death cases features recoveries of more than $620 million on behalf of its clients, including more than 175 multi-million dollar verdicts or settlements. To learn more about Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., call (847) 249-1227 or use the firm’s online form.


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