You likely missed hearing about the report that, in real dollars, medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors fell for the eighth straight year, reaching their lowest level since 1998. This sort of news rarely gets coverage on major networks, which tend to promote fear mongering reports that medical malpractice contributes to high medical costs through defensive medicine, and even leads to doctor flight from states that don’t give them adequate protection.

The report also showed that payouts account for only 0.12% of healthcare costs, and that even as malpractice payments decline, healthcare costs continue to rise. The report also showed that, as always, payments for wrongful death, catastrophic harm, and permanent serious injury accounted for about 80% of the total payouts.

Meanwhile, doctors, who seem to be as paranoid as or even more so than the rest of America, continue to practice defensive medicine by ordering numerous unnecessary tests and writing potentially harmful prescriptions.

One problem with medical testing is that it will never help if doctors ignore the results of the tests they order. Consider the case of a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida. A man was taken to the ER with chest pains. He was diagnosed as having a heart attack, prescribed cardiac medicines, and given a cardiac x-ray, known as a CTA, among other tests.

The radiologist looked at his CTA and reported it was a “normal coronary CTA,” although it was actually abnormal (according to the lawsuit). The cardiologist then ignored elevated troponin–a protein that is a highly specific indicator of heart trauma–and discontinued his heart medication, sending him home with only aspirin and ibuprofen. The man died of a heart attack two days later.

What is the point of ordering these tests if their results are misinterpreted or ignored by doctors?

Worse, defensive medicine can be outright dangerous. Dr. Sanjay Gupta notes a powerful story from his days as a medical student. When a patient went to her doctor with complaints about an upper respiratory infection, she was given antibiotics. She suffered Stevens-Johnson syndrome in reaction to the antibiotics, and suffered a systemic infection as a result of losing much of her skin. She survived, but only after two weeks in intensive care.

The worst part: the woman’s original infection was viral and neither needed nor was helped by the antibiotic prescription.

Doctors need to stop listening to their own propaganda about medical malpractice and focus on their patients. Their best defense against medical malpractice is not defensive medicine, but proper medicine.

If you have lost a loved one due to a doctor’s negligent or overzealous treatment, you may be able to receive compensation. Please contact Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA in Columbus, Ohio for a consultation.