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Defensive medicine

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Template:POsyPerspective Defensive medicine is the practice of diagnostic or therapeutic measures conducted primarily not to ensure the health of the patient, but as a safeguard against possible malpractice liability. Fear of litigation has been cited [1] as the driving force behind defensive medicine. Defensive medicine is especially common in the United States of America, with rates as high as 79% [2] to 93% [3], particularly in emergency medicine, obstetrics, and other high-risk specialties.

Defensive medicine takes two main forms: assurance behavior and avoidance behavior. Assurance behavior involves the charging of additional, unnecessary services in order to a) reduce adverse outcomes, b) deter patients from filing medical malpractice claims, or c) provide documented evidence that the practitioner is practicing according to the standard of care, so that if, in the future, legal action is initiated, liability can be pre-empted. Avoidance behavior occurs when providers refuse to participate in high risk procedures or circumstances [3].

Theoretical arguments based on utilitarianism conclude that defensive medicine is, on average, harmful to patients.[4]

See also


  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. DeKay ML, Asch DA. Is the defensive use of diagnostic tests good for patients, or bad? Med Decis Making. 1998;18:19-28.

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