A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that Canadians undergo roughly a million non-essential medical test, treatments, and procedures every year. This unnecessary medical care can range from MRI scans or X-rays, to preoperative tests, to over-prescribing medication, especially to seniors and kids. Unnecessary treatment, though generally harmless for the patient involved, can in some cases lead to medical injuries which necessitate the hiring of medical malpractice lawyers.

CIHI’s report was published as part of the Choosing Wisely campaign, a nation-wide effort to reduce waste and prevent harm in the Canadian healthcare system. Choosing Wisely began in the United States after a report from the Institute of Medicine discovered that the American healthcare sector wasted as much as $750-billion each year, often on unnecessary treatments. The Canadian chapter of the program was launched in 2014 by Dr. Wendy Levinson, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“I though at the beginning, when we started Choosing Wisely [Canada], that we would not have the same degree of unnecessary care in Canada because we don’t have the same motivators as the U.S.,” Dr. Levinson told the Globe and Mail. “I think [this report] tells us this is an issue in Canada.”

Unlike its American counterpart, CIHI’s study focuses less on the financial impact of unnecessary treatment, and more on highlighting an issue of great interest to medical malpractice lawyers: the impact of unnecessary treatment on patient outcomes. Unnecessary treatment can both harm patients directly and create a minor domino effect resulting in harm down the road.

For example, in 2011-2012, around 30 per cent of Alberta back pain patients underwent at least one X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Most of them probably didn’t require that treatment. In an attempt to reduce this number, the province initiated a program to educate its healthcare providers on when to skip imaging procedures for back pain. Early results show a roughly 15 to 17 per cent decline in the number of scans conducted. Without this reduction, imaging machines would not be available to patients who truly need them, which could lead to delayed or incorrect diagnoses, and in turn to potential medical malpractice.

In more straightforward cases, the sort that medical malpractice lawyers are better acquainted with, unnecessary treatment can cause direct and serious harm. Over-prescribing medication is perhaps the clearest example of this.

“The CIHI report estimates that one in 10 Canadian seniors regularly uses sleeping pills, known as benzodiazepines, and other sedative hypnotics on a regular basis,” wrote Dr. Levinson in a CBC opinion piece. “The long-term use of these medications outweighs the benefits… These medications increase the risk of falls causing injuries and car accidents in seniors.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of an unnecessary medical procedure, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Group today. Our team can advise you on your next steps and facilitate your recovery.


Photo credit: BrokenSphere/Wikimedia Commons

Greg Neinstein