Hope or Hype: The Obsession with Medical Advances and the High Cost of False Promises

By Richard A. Deyo; Donald L. Patrick | Go to book overview

10

Doctors and Hospitals
Fueling the Drive for New and More

All professions are conspiracies against the laity. —George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor's
Dilemma (1911), Act 1

WE LIVE in a culture that's enamored of new technology in general, and doctors are a part of that culture. Doctors are icons of technology themselves, but also advocates for technology. Doctors love new gadgets, new drugs, and new surgical techniques as much as everyone else—maybe more. Though most doctors genuinely want the best for their patients, they're just as prone as anyone else to assume that "newer is better."

As we've seen, sometimes doctors have special incentives to love new technology. In some cases, it means more patients or more income. Doctors may wish to be the first in town to offer a newly touted treatment, proving that they're in the vanguard. The practice of "defensive medicine"—the effort to avoid malpractice suits at any cost—often means providing high-tech tests and the latest treatments. And often, doctors are the ones who invent new technology, in which case they have both an intellectual and a financial investment in the new product or technique. In each of these situations, it's easy to rationalize providing more care, or more high-tech care, as improving quality. For all these

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