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Arizona doctors may spend more to lower liability risk

According to a recently-published study, doctors who utilize more resources on their patients are less likely to face malpractice lawsuits. The study may vindicate doctors who engage in defensive medicine, which is the practice of doing more for a patient to lower liability risks. It was based upon data involving Florida physicians and malpractice claims between 2000 and 2009.

Those who study the issue of health care reform say malpractice concerns may contribute to wasteful hospital spending. Although efforts have been made to try to remove the incentive to spend excessively on patient care, physicians and hospitals may keep spending levels intact if it means fewer lawsuits. In some cases, a patient may believe that higher levels of spending correlates to better care or at least more effort on the part of the doctor.

This could dissuade a patient from filing a lawsuit or be used as a viable defense in court if a malpractice suit were filed. However, the researchers from Stanford, USC and Harvard University acknowledge that some doctors may be overly cautious with all of their patients without regard for liability concerns. They also acknowledge that the data only looked at cases from Florida, which means that spending decisions could have been different in other states.

Expending more resources will not eliminate the possibility of doctor errors such as a misdiagnosis, however, and a patient whose condition has been worsened as a result may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to determine what options are available. If, after a review of the patient's hospital records and consultations with medical experts, it can be determined that the practitioner failed to exhibit the requisite standard of care, the attorney may find it advisable to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the damages that the patient has sustained.

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