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Most U.S. Physicians Practicing 'Defensive Medicine'

MONDAY, June 28 -- Most American doctors believe their colleagues order more patient tests and procedures than needed, to protect themselves against lawsuits, a new national survey shows.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City queried 2,416 physicians and found that 91 percent think this type of "defensive medicine" is the norm. In addition, 90.7 percent of the respondents believe better protection against unwarranted malpractice suits is necessary to reduce the number of unnecessary medical tests.

"About $60 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine, and many physicians feel they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits even when they practice competently within the standard of care," study co-author Dr. Tara Bishop, an associate general internal medicine, said in a Mount Sinai news release.

"The study shows that an overwhelming majority of physicians support tort reform to decrease malpractice lawsuits and that unnecessary testing -- a contributor to rising health care costs -- will not decrease without it," she added.

The national survey included U.S. physicians from a wide variety of practice and specialty backgrounds.

The findings appear in the June 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Posted: June 2010