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Legal concerns trigger prostate-specific antigen testing


Steurer, Johan; Held, Ulrike; Schmidt, Mathias; Gigerenzer, Gerd; Tag, Brigitte; Bachmann, Lucas M (2009). Legal concerns trigger prostate-specific antigen testing. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 15(2):390-392.

Abstract

Background. In the United States, lawsuits against physicians have had an impact on their behaviour, resulting in overdiagnosis and other forms of 'defensive medicine'. Does a similar situation exist in Switzerland? Using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening as an example, we surveyed Swiss physicians and assessed the extent to which liability fears influenced their recommendation for testing.
Methods. At a continuing medical education conference we distributed a pilot-tested questionnaire to 552 participants. Two hundred and fifty of them (45%) completed the questionnaire.
Results. Of the participants, 158 (68%) were general practitioners and 73 (32%) specialists in internal medicine. Seventy-five per cent of both groups recommend regular PSA screening to men older than age 50. Yet only 56% of the general physicians and 53% of the internists believe that PSA measurement is an effective screening method. A substantial proportion of the physicians – 41% of general practitioners and 43% of internists – reported that they sometimes or often recommend this test for legal reasons.
Conclusions. Defensive medicine is not a phenomenon particular to the USA, but is also observable in Switzerland. This result is surprising, given that in Switzerland and other European countries, a physician who does not recommend a test or treatment whose effectiveness is controversial need not fear litigation.

Background. In the United States, lawsuits against physicians have had an impact on their behaviour, resulting in overdiagnosis and other forms of 'defensive medicine'. Does a similar situation exist in Switzerland? Using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening as an example, we surveyed Swiss physicians and assessed the extent to which liability fears influenced their recommendation for testing.
Methods. At a continuing medical education conference we distributed a pilot-tested questionnaire to 552 participants. Two hundred and fifty of them (45%) completed the questionnaire.
Results. Of the participants, 158 (68%) were general practitioners and 73 (32%) specialists in internal medicine. Seventy-five per cent of both groups recommend regular PSA screening to men older than age 50. Yet only 56% of the general physicians and 53% of the internists believe that PSA measurement is an effective screening method. A substantial proportion of the physicians – 41% of general practitioners and 43% of internists – reported that they sometimes or often recommend this test for legal reasons.
Conclusions. Defensive medicine is not a phenomenon particular to the USA, but is also observable in Switzerland. This result is surprising, given that in Switzerland and other European countries, a physician who does not recommend a test or treatment whose effectiveness is controversial need not fear litigation.

Citations

9 citations in Web of Science®
12 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic and Policlinic for Internal Medicine
02 Faculty of Law > Institute of Legal Sciences > Criminal Law
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:August 2009
Deposited On:18 Feb 2010 12:49
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:58
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1356-1294
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2008.01024.x
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&con_lng=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=004354321
PubMed ID:19335502

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