The fine line of defensive medicine

Link to article at PubMed

J Forensic Leg Med. 2021 May;80:102170. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102170. Epub 2021 Apr 14.


Defensive medicine is a practice that has been utilized by clinicians in efforts of preventing patient dissatisfaction and malpractice claims and may be done through either omission or commission. As much as 57% of physicians have disclosed that they practice defensive medicine. However, this practice does not necessarily prevent malpractice claims and more importantly, neither does it equate to good medical practice, with some leading to poor outcomes. Unfortunately, there is a high percentage of malpractice claims lodged against clinicians in both primary care and hospital settings. Specialists such as surgeons, obstetricians, and gynecologists face the highest claims. In particular, during the SARS CoV-2 pandemic, with new challenges and limited treatment algorithms, there is an even greater concern for possible bourgeoning claims. Counteracting defensive medicine can be accomplished through decriminalizing malpractice claims, leaving physician oversight up to state medical boards and hospital claims management committees. Additional tort reform measures must also be taken such as caps on noneconomic damages to ensure emphasis on beneficence and nonmaleficence. Once these are in place, it may well serve to increase clinician-patient trust and improve patient independence in the shared decision-making process of their treatment, allowing clinicians to practice their full scope of practice without feeling wary of potential malpractice claims.

PMID:33878590 | DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102170

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