Pushing Back on Medical Liability Misconceptions – NYT Letter to the Editor

To the Editor

Re G.O.P. Bill Would Make Medical Malpractice Suits Harder to Win (April 15):
In 40 years of practicing medicine, I’ve witnessed a change in physician culture. Physicians no longer rely on clinical judgement based on training, experience and the best available evidence. The fear of lawsuits drives providers to adapt behaviors that lead to increased health-care costs. More than 90% of physicians engage in defensive medicine by practicing assurance behavior; ordering tests, particularly imaging tests, performing diagnostic procedures and referring patients for consultation. These behaviors have become standard of care. Patients also become educated through the internet and media to this new standard and change their expectations of their care perpetuating this expensive cycle. The current” patchwork quilt” medical liability system neither effectively compensates persons injured from medical negligence nor encourages the addressing system errors to improve patient safety. The Protecting Access to Care Act pending in Congress would address these inefficiencies. Most importantly, passing these sensible reforms represents a critical first step in restoring the appropriate practice of medicine where physicians make decisions based only on the patients well being.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD
Iowa City, Iowa