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Study: Fear Of Being Sued Can Steer Patient Treatment

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ROYAL OAK (WWJ) – A study released by the American College of Emergency Physicians concludes that many decisions made by doctors about the course of a patient’s treatment are done out of fear of malpractice suits.

Nearly half of 18,000 emergency physicians responding to the survey say that the biggest challenge to cutting health care costs is the fear of being sued.

WWJ Newsradio 950 talked to Dr. Edward Walton, division director of pediatric emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak.

Dr. Walton says that since doctors are human; they will make mistakes. “It’s probably because of that expectation (that they can not make a mistake) that doctors feel like they, at times, have to order what they might not necessarily order otherwise,” says Dr. Walton.

The study confirms what emergency medicine doctors know;  “There are times when they make decisions about medical care based on a fear of medical malpractice,” says Walton.

The fear of lawsuits can include ordering extra tests, which, while costly, isn’t necessarily a bad thing says Dr. Walton.

The survey coincides with an effort on Capitol Hill to pass two medical liability reform measures.

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