Are neurology residents in the United States being taught defensive medicine?

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2006 Jun;108(4):374-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2005.05.013. Epub 2005 Jul 22.


Objective: To study whether and how fear of litigation and defensive medicine are communicated during residency training and to assess whether this affects residents' attitudes.

Methods: Neurology residents in the US (n=25) and, as a control group, Neurology residents training in Germany (n=42) were asked to rate multiple items regarding litigation, defensive strategies and how often these issues are raised by teaching physicians. Statistic analysis was performed using nonparametric tests.

Results: Residents in both countries indicated that litigation is an "important problem", although US residents stated this significantly more often (p<0.001). Initiation of tests motivated mainly by fear of litigation (p=0.004) and explicit teaching of defensive strategies by teaching physicians (p<0.02) were reported more often by US residents.

Conclusion: Neurology residents in both the US and Germany perceive a litigational threat, but significantly less so in Germany. This difference may result at least in part from teaching of defensive strategies reported more often in US programs.

MeSH terms

  • Defensive Medicine* / education
  • Defensive Medicine* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Defensive Medicine* / methods
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Liability, Legal
  • Neurology / education*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States