Dutch doctors fear being sued, give patients unnecessary treatment
Doctors in the Netherlands are so afraid of being sued that they regularly provide patients with extra treatment that is not medically necessary, according to research quoted in Tuesday’s NRC.
The research, carried out on behalf of two doctors’ advisory bodies by researchers at Tilburg University, involved questioning over 1,100 healthcare professionals.
In total, four in five doctors said they had delivered care which they did not consider to be the best option and almost seven out of 10 said they regularly gave patients treatments to ‘give them the feeling that everything possible had been done’.
Two-thirds of the doctors who took part in the research warned about the development of a claim culture in the Netherlands, as has happened in the US.
In particular, doctors are concerned about claims from patients for not trying out all available treatment options, even though they know a particular course of action will have no effect.
The NRC said doctors are coming under pressure from two sides. On the one hand, patients and their families want more treatment and are becoming less trusting of doctors’ own judgement. On the other, the government and health insurers want less treatment but are imposing rules which drive up costs.
Rotterdam family doctor Chantal van het Zandt told the NRC that patients now have to be seen by a specialist before they are fitted with a simple hearing aid. This is a ‘pointless, expensive demand from the insurance companies,’ she said.
At the same time, patients are demanding hospital referrals ‘even when there is no medical need’, she said.