Letter to the Editor: No epidemic of medical testing

Bergen County Record
Sunday, April 17, 2005

Regarding Dr. Kamal Dutta's "-'Defensive medicine' fuels soaring health-care costs" (Other Views, April 12):
Dutta's support of the pending federal medical malpractice bill is largely premised on his position that there is an epidemic of costly defensive medicine being practiced. This is not only undocumented, but refuted.

Several years ago, even before the pervasiveness of managed care, the congressional Office of Technology Assessment found that less than 8 percent of all diagnostic procedures are likely to be caused primarily by liability concerns.

In January 2004, the Congressional Budget Office stated, "So-called defensive medicine may be motivated less by liability concerns than by the income it generates for physicians or by the positive (albeit small) benefits to patients. ... CBO believes that savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small."

The Government Accountability Office has likewise rejected the defensive medicine theory. No one disputes that some doctors are subject to exorbitant medical malpractice insurance rates - especially those in high-risk areas practiced by physicians like Dutta.

But the law before Congress will not fix that. Repeated studies show that limiting compensation to negligence victims, as the law proposes, does not control insurance rates. It does, however, deny patients fair compensation, especially the most severely injured like brain-damaged children.

If doctors want to control their insurance rates, they should go after the insurance industry that rakes in record profits while ripping them off. It is hard to fathom why Dutta would instead blame innocent patients - those he dedicates his life to saving.
Laurie Beacham 
Communications Director
Center for Justice & Democracy
New York

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