Survey: American Doctors Splintered Over Many Ethical Issues

This article is more than 8 years old.
(U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)
(U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)

Fascinating. Looks like the recent schism on assisted suicide among Massachusetts doctors is not such an anomaly.

WebMD, the online health information giant, has just released its latest Medscape survey of American doctors' positions on a host of ethical issues, and the physician community looks not just split but splintered. And who can blame them? These are hard questions, from creative billing to candor with patients, from defensive medicine to "futile" care.

The Medscape 2012 Ethics Survey canvassed more than 24,000 American physicians in August and September on a range of dilemmas. Highlights from the press release:

• Defensive Medicine: When asked if it is acceptable to perform “unnecessary” procedures because of malpractice concerns, 23% of physicians responded “yes”, 55% “no” and 22% said “it depends.”

• Cost Containment: When asked if a patient who is “nonadherent” or “overuses” resources should be dismissed, 32% responded “yes”, 33% said “no”, and 36% said “it depends.”

• Insurance: When asked if insurers should be dropped if they do not pay well, even if longtime patients must stop seeing them, 27% of physicians surveyed responded “yes,” 41% said “no”, and 33% said “it depends.”

• Assisted suicide: When asked if physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some situations, 47% of physicians said “yes,” 40% said “no”, and 13% said “it depends.”

• 'Futile' care: When asked if they would give life-sustaining therapy if they believe it to be futile, 35% said “yes”, 24% said “no”, and 41% said “it depends.”

•  Billing:

The Medscape 2012 Ethics Survey found that 12% of physicians said “yes” and 13% said “it depends” when asked if it is acceptable to overstate or falsify a patient’s condition when submitting claims or seeking prior authorization. The majority (75%) of responding physicians, however, said “no.”

Medscape's full report on the survey is here.

This program aired on November 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.