One argument that our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers often hear is that tort reform efforts needs to be passed in order to save medical costs. One reason that medical costs are affected by medical malpractice lawsuits, claim these advocates, is because there is a lot of unnecessary medical care performed. It is usually referred to as “defensive medicine.” Of course, it is a bit of a stretch to claim that a patient seeking redress or harm caused by inadequate medical care should have their rights taken away because other doctors perform tests unnecessarily.
Beyond that basic unfairness, however, the claims about the scope and cause of defensive medicine are suspect. A new story published in the Washington Post touched on these issues. The story explains that there is an “epidemic” of unnecessary care that very well may be driving up costs. Of course, the problem cannot be tackled by those using the legal system. Instead, it has to be addressed by medical professionals who are supposed to be experts in this area and who actually advise patients on what medical treatments are needed.
For example, the article explained how tonsillectomies are the most common procedure that requires children to undergo anesthesia. The total number of these procedures has skyrocketed in recent years. In the decade between 1996 and 2006 there was a nearly 75% increase in tonsil remove procedures. That increase is significant, because the totals were high to begin with. That means that in 2006 there were roughly half a million tonsillectomies performed on children.
However, there is one major problem with all of this: some worry that tonsillectomies don’t actually do anything to help many of those children. The need for the procedure varies depending on the severity of the condition. For children with the worst symptoms-chronic severe sore throats and fever-then the procedure might be worthwhile. Yet, when symptoms are milder there is no improvement for children who have a tonsillectomy.
These tonsil-removal procedures are also often used to treat sleep apnea. However, there has not been a single randomized study that has found any benefit for sleep apnea patients who had the procedure.
Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers know that this sort of blanket treatment is unnecessary and certainly cannot be blamed on the medical malpractice legal system. It is important for those seeking to actually tackle these costs to address real causes, not political punching bags.
Some observers explain that the main issue is that procedures are recommended for patients who likely don’t need it because they have not yet had recurring symptoms. Part of the problem is guided by profit. The Post article explained that “most doctors are paid by the volume of services they provide, creating an incentive to provide more care even if it might not be indicated.”
In addition, many suggest that there should be changes in medical schools. In addition to teaching treatment methods, these schools might also need to explain situations where certain treatment doesn’t make sense. The overall necessity and well-being of patients should be considered holistically, instead of simply an assembly line of random treatment protocols.
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