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Study: Medicine's 'Culture Of Fear' Wastes Billions

A new study by the Massachusetts Medical Society says doctors in the state spend at least $1.4 billion a year ordering tests and other procedures just because they're afraid of being sued.

WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer reports.

Doctors call it defensive medicine: The X-rays, CAT scans, referrals, and other unnecessary steps they take to prevent a lawsuit if patients later claim they didn't get proper care. Today's study says that drives up healthcare costs and may be unsafe for patients. Alan Woodward of the Massachusetts Medical Society says it also creates a culture of fear among doctors.

WOODWARD: They are fearful of being tied up in litigation over a suit and the depositions and the negative impact it has on their reputation, on their family, on their stress.

Woodward says he hopes the study will lead to fewer lawsuits by improving hospital safety and transparency.

This program aired on November 18, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.

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