Every time North Carolina residents visit their physician, they go to the medical clinic with the expectation that their doctor will be thorough and effective, yet cautious. However, in an effort to be exhaustive to reach a diagnosis, doctors may be doing too much, which can lead to serious medical mistakes.
In 1990, estimates made by the Institute of Medicine indicated that somewhere around 98,000 Americans died as a result of hospital or doctor error. Today, those estimations have more than doubled to nearly 200,000 fatalities per year.
This great leap in error-related deaths is certainly cause for alarm, but may not be without explanation. One of America's most famous doctors and TV news contributor, Sanjay Gupta, offers the thought that doctors may be doing too much to prevent mistakes. In an effort to protect themselves or their institution from medical malpractice suits, doctors may be overprescribing and ordering excessive amounts of diagnostic testing, which all carry risk.
Statistics show that the number of MRI scans ordered by doctors has quadrupled since 1996. During that same time period, medical visits that led to physicians prescribing at least five medications tripled.
The way hospitals and doctors can reduce the risk of over-testing, overprescribing and over-treating could be rather simple. In his own practice, Gupta asks himself if every treatment he prescribes is absolutely medically necessary. He also suggests that doctors take a moment to ensure everything is in order before they begin a procedure or treatment. This can be especially effective for surgeons who may operate on the wrong patient or part of the body if they are not cautious.
Above all else, doctors should approach their actions with their patient's safety first, which should be the primary goal as a medical professional. Though it may appear to be in the patient's interest to order an excess of tests, it could cause more harm than good.
Patients have a right to expect their doctors are acting in their best interests at all times, rather than simply doing everything to avoid a lawsuit. In the instance that you or a loved one has suffered at the hands of a negligent medical provider, legal recourse may be in line. North Carolina's medical malpractice laws allow patients to hold their doctors accountable, so they provide effective medical care.
- The New York Times, "More Treatment, More Mistakes," Sanjay Gupta, July 31, 2012
- Our firm has experience sorting through the details of medical cases to determine your legal rights. If you have questions about unnecessary doctor errors, please see our Raleigh medical malpractice page for more information.