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What are the odds of ineffective treatment?

When you visit your doctor in Massachusetts, you have certain expectations that your treatment will be effective, current and supported by the latest research. A growing body of literature, however, suggests that this may not be the case.

A recent report in The Atlantic suggests that it is not unlikely that the treatment your doctor recommends may be either useless or downright dangerous. For instance, the popularity of the practice of implanting stents to treat narrowed arteries and relieve chest pain does not correlate with the procedure’s success in the research. Recent studies have shown that for stable patients, stents may not be beneficial when compared with noninvasive treatments.

Despite these findings, if you are suffering from chest pain relating to an artery blockage, planting a stent is likely to be one of your physician’s first recourses. This scenario arises for a number of different reasons. For one, doctors are under significant pressure to protect themselves from blame and legal liability in the event of patient death. Thus, they may be tempted to perform an ineffective procedure rather than accept the risk of litigation if the patient passes away without receiving said treatment. Furthermore, doctors may face some pressure from the patients themselves to perform popular surgeries. The refusal to do so may generate negative online reviews and poor word-of-mouth publicity.

However, it is also possible that your physician is operating without staying up to date on the latest research or is choosing to follow standards of care that have been undermined by recent findings. This problem is worsened by the fact that a number of prestigious medical journals have proven reluctant at times to publish studies that shine a poor light on prior research and often encourage researchers to focus on making new discoveries rather than replicating previous results. Most worrisome of all is when your health care provider is aware of existing research suggesting a particular drug or procedure is ineffective but decides to move ahead anyway because the treatment is profitable.

Current legislation, such as the 21st Century Cures Act, may actually exacerbate the issue by lowering the requirements for evidence and approval of new drug uses and medical devices. Thus, it is generally a good idea to make a point of asking your doctor questions and conducting your own research before you consent to a course of treatment.

This information is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.

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