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Medically Unnecessary Treatments on the Rise in the US

Are all the treatments provided to patients in hospitals medically necessary? Studies tend to prove otherwise. Along with wrong medications and surgical errors, unnecessary treatments also account for a large number of fatal and near fatal events in hospitals. The incident at Halifax hospital reported in the Washington Post recently is a case in point. A whistleblower lawsuit was filed against the hospital accusing the hospital of making profit at the cost of valuable patients’ lives.

Dr. Fredrico Vinas, supposedly a star surgeon performing three or four surgeries on a typical weekday is accused of providing procedures that were medically unnecessary. A peer review conducted by board certified neurosurgeons found that out of the ten spinal fusions Vinas provided, nine were not medically necessary.

Government records show that more than 465000 spinal fusions were conducted in the US in 2011 and experts are concerned that at least half of them must have been provided without a solid medical reason. Over the past 20 years, the rate of spinal fusion surgery in the United States has risen six times and this costly procedure has become more popular than hip replacement surgery. The harrowing concern is that whether financial rewards are acting as catalyst for doctors recommending this surgery. Other reasons for this increase could be the advancements in diagnostic and surgical technology and patients becoming more demanding.

Though Halifax Hospital asserts that Dr. Vinas has not provided any medically unnecessary treatments, incidents such as this are sufficient to shake people’s belief in the healthcare system. So how safe are we when we seek treatment in our hospitals? A disturbing thought indeed!

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