Is there overtesting in ERs? New lawsuit test


The fear of medical malpractice lawsuits prompts many emergency room doctors to order extra blood tests and scans for what could be a minor chest pain or other ailment.

"It has everything to do with it," Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told the Associated Press. The ER's fast pace contributes as well -- it's easier and quicker to order a test than ask a patient questions. Patients also contribute to the over testing by demanding tests. "Our society puts more weight on technology than on physical exams," she says.

ER doctors are in the top 10 specialists -- along with obstetricians and surgeons -- most likely to be sued for medical malpractice. The Physicians Insurers Association of America says about 3% of its clients, which include roughly two-thirds of private practice doctors, had lawsuits against them between 2006-08.

But the extra tests can be harmful and costly too, with drug side effects and an increased risk of cancer from radiation. Dr. Jeffrey Kline, an ER doctor at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., tells the AP that a CT scan sends three years of radiation in to a patient's body, stresses the kidneys and is expensive.