“Defensive medicine” leads to fewer C-sections

| Dec 3, 2020 | Birth Injuries |

Doctors are often faced with very difficult decisions during the birthing process. After all, giving birth is a dangerous time for mother and child alike, and the wrong decision can lead to any number of complications including birth injuries or even death.

Many people assume that doctors over perform C-sections in an instance of defensive medicine. Defensive medicine is when a doctor decides to give or withhold certain kinds of treatments or surgeries out of fear of lawsuits. However, this appears to not be the case. According to Science Daily, doctors were actually less likely to perform C-sections if there was no risk of the patient suing for malpractice.

Where is this data from? 

An MIT economist conducted research using evidence from the US Military Health System. Due to a legal loophole resulting from the Feres Doctrine, military members who receive medical care from military facilities do not have the right to sue for malpractice if they receive negligent care. However, military members may also choose to go off-base for their medical care, and here they would have the right to sue.

In this way, the economist was able to compare the data from births in military families, both those who received treatment from military facilities and those who received private care. Ultimately, the data showed that C-sections were almost 5 percent more likely to happen at military hospitals as compared to civilian ones.  

Why does this happen? 

The results may seem unusual, since people often associate “defensive medicine” with more intervention, and not less. Additionally, doctors often make more money for C-sections as compared to vaginal births, so many assume that doctors have great financial incentive for C-sections.

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