9 in 10 docs blame lawsuit fears for overtesting

Ninety percent of physicians surveyed said doctors overtest and overtreat to protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits.

That sentiment is more common among male doctors than female doctors, according to the survey published Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine. The findings echo a recent Associated Press story in which many emergency room doctors said lawsuit fears are the main reason for overtreating in the ER.

The Archives survey of 1,231 physicians nationwide included ER doctors and other specialists, surgeons and primary care doctors.

The survey asked two questions: “Do physicians order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves from malpractice suits?” And, “Are protections against unwarranted malpractice lawsuits needed to decrease the unnecessary use of diagnostic tests?”

Overall, 91 percent of doctors surveyed agreed with both statements.

Survey co-author Dr. Tara Bishop, an internist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said the results jibe with what she hears from colleagues.

“When you sit around at a dinner party with doctors, malpractice fears and a kind of hatred of the malpractice system really comes up as a common theme,” Bishop said.

Paul Perantinides, a medical malpractice attorney in Akron, Ohio said most of his cases involve doctors failing to test