Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Ethics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The practice of defensive medicine among hospital doctors in the United Kingdom

Osman Ortashi1*, Jaspal Virdee2, Rudaina Hassan3, Tomasz Mutrynowski4 and Fikri Abu-Zidan5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gynaecology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

2 Geriatric and General Internal Medicine, London Deanery, London, UK

3 Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Wales Deanery, Wales, UK

4 Department of Urology, Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

5 Department of Surgery and Trauma, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:42  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-42

Published: 29 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Defensive medicine is defined as a doctor’s deviation from standard practice to reduce or prevent complaints or criticism. The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence of the practice of defensive medicine in the UK among hospital doctors and the factors affecting it.

Methods

A quantitative study was designed, with a detailed seventeen point questionnaire. Defensive medicine practice was assessed and tested against four factors age, gender, specialty and grade. Three hundred hospital doctors from three UK hospitals received the questionnaire.

Results

Two hundred and four (68%) out of 300 hospital doctors responded to the survey. Seventy eight percent reported practicing one form or another of defensive medicine. Ordering unnecessary tests is the commonest form of defensive medicine reported by 59% of the respondents. This is followed by unnecessary referral to other specialties (55%). While only 9% of the sampled doctors would refuse to treat high risk patients, double this number would avoid high risks procedures all together (21%). A linear regression module has shown that only senior grade was associated with less practice of defensive medicine.

Conclusion

Defensive medical practice is common among the doctors who responded to the survey. Senior grade is associated with less practice of defensive medicine.