Article published by : Max Health on Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Category : General Health

Medical Malpractice: Overtreatment Can Harm You, Too

A recent New York Times article noted that numerous patients are currently suffering, both physically and financially, from an "epidemic of overtreatment."

Consequences of Excessive Testing and Prescriptions

All of us must develop enough self-confidence to use some discernment when deciding whether or not to take all of the tests our primary care doctors and specialists recommend to us. Furthermore, many prescriptions are not always justified. Both the elderly and younger patients can actually develop troubling medical conditions due to poorly chosen medications.

One example involving questionable prescriptions that was noted in the Times article concerned an elderly man placed on two different anti-depressant drugs. His son began noticing a heightened level of dementia after his father began taking those two new prescriptions. After doing some research, the son learned that the drugs were probably responsible for his father's perceived mental decline. He then had his father taken off those medications. Since that time, his father has greatly improved and has been able to live on his own for the past four years.

Three others profiled in the same Times article included:

- A woman suffering with the uncommon autoimmune ailment, Wegener's disease. She was ordered to keep regular doctor appointments for many months and undergo countless lab tests and X-rays, even when her complaints were minor. She was even hospitalized after simply developing a cold. Eventually, the woman chose a new doctor. Her condition improved and her required medical visits have become much more reasonable;

- A woman with a child suffering from mild cerebral palsy was pressured to have her young daughter undergo an MRI that would require anesthesia. Knowing that many complications can result from the use of anesthesia, the woman declined it. Her child continues to function as expected at this time;

- A woman who suffered a simple black eye while traveling. Her doctor never even examined her before requiring her to go get a CT scan and an MRI. The woman felt very upset while waiting on the test results given her family's medical history. All the woman had wanted was for a medical professional to simply look at her eye and tell her if it was healing properly. Sure enough, nothing serious was found by the tests.

Other Common Problems that May Lead to Overtreatment

- As many Americans now know, taking too many antibiotics can cause you to develop an infection known as a "super bug," like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Always question a doctor who is too quick to prescribe an antibiotic for all of your ailments;

- Many women are still being advised to have hysterectomies when their only complaints are the usual "hot flashes," sleeping problems and other discomforts that often accompany menopause;
- While colonoscopies can be very important diagnostic tools -- and are often recommended for older Americans once every 10 years -- it's important to remember that they carry with them a number of potential risks. For example, inexperienced doctors may accidentally perforate part of a patient's colon during such procedures. When that happens, serious infections and complicated surgeries may be required to repair the damaged colon. When a patient may only be suffering from hemorrhoids and he or she has always had normal, timely colonoscopies in the past, it may be unwise to order a new colonoscopy if less than 10 years have passed since the last test.

Open to Debate: Why Some Doctors May Lean Toward Overtreatment

If asked confidentially, a majority of doctors would probably admit that they tend to order too many tests because they fear medical malpractice suits. Also, now that many more Americans are without healthcare insurance and doctors are searching for new sources of income, a number of them now own a financial interest in certain lab companies. It's always wise for patients to ask if their doctors own an interest in any of the lab companies that process test results for them. Many doctors now profit handsomely from the lab work they generate from their own offices.

Fortunately, there are still many highly conscientious doctors who simply order numerous tests just to be sure they haven't overlooked any serious conditions.

In the end, we must each take responsibility for finding the most revered doctors in our communities and having the courage to question some of the treatment advice we are given.

Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff LLP
122 E 42nd Street, Suite 3800
New York, NY 10168
Phone: 1-866-516-5887


By: Max Health

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