Doctors increasingly practise “defensive” medicine for fear of litigation, says regulator

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 08 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h87
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

Doctors are becoming more cautious and are practising “defensive” medicine to prevent litigation after treating patients and to avoid investigation, MPs have been told.

The General Medical Council (GMC), the doctors’ regulator, said that doctors were only too conscious of the possibility of patients taking legal action against them or complaining to the GMC. At the parliamentary Health Committee’s annual accountability hearing for the GMC on 6 January MPs asked how the regulator could avoid creating an environment in which doctors practise defensive medicine.

Terence Stephenson, GMC chair, giving evidence, said, “My own experience is that medicine has become more defensive over my practising lifetime, and that is driven more by fear of litigation than fear …

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