Defensive medicine is not the way to go

Doctors are repeatedly exhorted against the practice of defensive medicine by the health authorities. In truth, defensive medicine is immensely profligate, time-consuming and causes a lot of superfluous spending, funds that can be put to far better use.

We would far prefer to use good clinical skills honed by years of experience to derive a diagnosis followed by a treatment regimen, after some cost-effective, simple but entirely adequate investigations which have stood up well through the test of time.

But when the court decides otherwise (Court dismisses gynaecologist's appeal against suspension; Nov 16) and rules that a scan (likely ultrasound) and good clinical acumen are insufficient grounds enough for an operation to be considered without further tests, it really opens up Pandora's box.

Now, in order to satisfy yet more seemingly stringent criteria by the court, even the simplest of operations will not be carried forth by the defensively conscious doctor until the most sophisticated and exorbitant tests have been conducted.

I am not sure if this is the way forward, nor the way progressive and sensible medicine is to be practised. But I surely know this is the way the wind blows and I must bend with it, beseechment against the practice of defensive medicine by ministers notwithstanding (Avoid practising defensive medicine, docs told; Aug 2).

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Defensive medicine is not the way to go'. Print Edition | Subscribe