On behalf of Mark Maritote at Maritote Law
As many people in Hanover Park know, medical problems that are detected and addressed early are more likely to be treated successfully and economically. In light of this fact, it may seem like it is preferable for medical professionals to err on the side of caution and even overtreatment. In reality, though, this approach can have dangerous effects. Sadly, research suggests that a large number of people suffer negative outcomes due to excessive medical testing and unnecessary treatment.
According to The New Yorker, in a given year, a significant proportion of patients undergo routine tests that are considered unnecessary or even harmful from a medical standpoint. One study, which identified 26 of these tests and procedures, found that between 25 and 42 percent of Medicare patients underwent at least one of the tests or treatments each year.
To many people, excessive medical testing may appear to primarily be a financial problem. However, as Scientific American explains, too much testing can also lead to adverse long-term health outcomes. Over-testing may increase the risk of harmful diagnostic errors, unnecessary procedures and complications that could otherwise have been avoided.
More false positives are likely to occur when patients undergo a greater number of medical tests. Based on these inaccurate test results and diagnoses, many patients may consent to undergo invasive treatments that introduce additional health risks. In some cases, patients may suffer complications or injuries in the course of procedures that weren’t even medically necessary.
Even when medical tests yield accurate results, there is a risk that patients will opt for dangerous procedures to address conditions that don’t merit intervention. For example, The New Yorker notes that up to 75 percent of cancers are too slow-growing to prove fatal, making treatment unnecessary. Still, “overdiagnosis” of these conditions, which is largely attributable to increased testing, may cause many patients to undergo biopsies, radiation therapy or other risky procedures.
In many of these cases, the dangers of the treatment may outweigh any potential benefits. This has led some professionals to recommend less regular testing. For example, according to Scientific American, experts have called for reduced testing for breast cancer, since mammogram results account for 20 percent of breast cancer overdiagnosis. Still, the general focus on early detection and preventative treatment may expose many people to needless care that raises the likelihood of medical complications or injuries.
Along with reduced standard testing, there are a few measures that could prevent unnecessary and potentially harmful medical procedures. According to Scientific American, prior to ordering testing, doctors should consider whether the results would change the course of the patient’s treatment or simply create extra stress. Before sharing the results of medical tests, doctors should advise patients that the risks of treating the condition in question might surpass any potential gains.
Tragically, even if these approaches become more widespread, many patients may suffer from the effects of unnecessary treatments after doctors make diagnostic errors, give poor advice or fail to provide appropriate care. In cases when these errors shouldn’t reasonably have occurred, legal remedies may be available.
In Illinois, victims of medical mistakes or negligence may be entitled to compensation for economic losses and personal pain and suffering. A malpractice attorney may be able to offer further advice on pursuing needed compensation for substandard and harmful medical care.