Doctors fearing the threat of prosecution are avoiding high-risk procedures and patients, who could be denied life-saving treatment as a result, a survey suggests.
The estimate suggets that 86% of physicians were practising ‘defensive’ medicine, while 48% said the threat of legal action was deterring them from high-risk patients.
Defensive medicine is where doctors recommend a test or treatment with the priority being to avoid litigation rather than the patient’s best interests. An example would be declining to carry out a procedure with a relatively low success rate, even if it represents the patient’s only hope of medium to long-term survival.
Doctors say that cases filed are a part of a “trend towards the criminalisation of healthcare”, which has seen many healthcare professionals charged, prosecuted or convicted for gross medical negligence in a year.
The situation worsens when patients are getting unruly and mob tendencies are increasing.
A renowned Kidney sugeon said: “Of course it’s a tragedy when somebody dies or get complications in some medical condition but putting a criminal case is not the way to address that. Paranoia spreads very quickly and is not a good way to practise medicine. No-one goes into a hospital intending to harm a patient.”
“Surgeons will simply say ‘why would I take the risk?’ Lots of other simple surgeries pay better and don’t involve ending up in jail.”
Another said: “Definitely more risk averse now, and I am aware of rising costs for the patients. But then no patient will support me if something goes wrong, even if I have done something with best of my intention.”
“If the criminal law is going to be used in medicine, you’re not going to to do it [operate] when it comes to high-risk patients who have any risk of dying. Doctors will stop operating in cases where there is a high mortality; that’s the real worry about this. We try to use every method we can to save a patient but if the result is not favourable then the patient will sue us, claiming that we shouldn’t have tried that method. The reality is that even we don’t know which method might work, which might not.”
Courts have supported Doctors earlier but in some recent judgements have gone totally against the doctors across the world, which had instilled more fear.
Hope the lawmakers, judiciary, doctors and society find a more balanced solution , else one way or the other everyone will be a victim of excess litigations.
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