How Doctors Make Decisions For Their Patients.

By Garcia-Retamero, Galesic M.  From

In the past decade, the number of lawsuits for medical malpractice has risen significantly. This could affect the way doctors make decisions for their patients.

To investigate whether and why doctors practice defensive medicine with their patients a study was conducted.

Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire involving choices between a risky and a conservative treatment. One group of doctors made decisions for their patients. Another group of doctors predicted what their patients would decide for themselves. Finally, all doctors and patients made decisions for themselves and described the factors they thought influenced their decisions.


Doctors selected much more conservative medical treatments for their patients than for themselves. Most notably, they did so even when they accurately predicted that the patients would select riskier treatments. When asked about the reasons for their decisions, most doctors (93%) reported fear of legal consequences.


Doctors’ decisions for their patients are strongly influenced by concerns of possible legal consequences. Patients therefore cannot blindly follow their doctor’s advice. Our study, however, suggests a plausible method that patients could use to get around this problem: They could simply ask their doctor what he or she would do in the patient’s situation.

 Oct. 17, 2014

Although the publication date of an article may not be current, the information in the article is still valid.


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