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Defensive medicine: Medical practices designed to avert the future possibility of malpractice suits.
In defensive medicine, responses are undertaken primarily to avoid liability rather than to benefit the patient. Doctors may order tests, procedures, or visits, or avoid high-risk patients or procedures primarily (but not necessarily solely) to reduce their exposure to malpractice liability. Defensive medicine is one of the least desirable effects of the rise in medical litigation. Defensive medicine increases the cost of health care and may expose patients to unnecessary risks.
The prevalence of defensive has increased significantly in the recent years specially in the USA & UK.
Recent study from USA showed that 93 percent of practising doctors reported practicing defensive medicine, 92 percent reported ordering unneeded tests and diagnostic procedures and making unnecessary referrals, 42 percent said "they had taken steps to restrict their practice in the previous 3 years, including eliminating procedures prone to complications, such as trauma surgery, and avoiding patients who had complex medical problems or were perceived as litigious.".
There is no reason to suggest that the prevalence of this serious phenomenon in the UK is different from the USA.
Last updated: 29/10/2007