Commenter “Anonymous Attorney” writes:
Part of the litigation explosion includes every other person with a back injury claim being sent for invasive “fusion” or other drastic spinal surgery. Of course, defendants, often through insurance, foot the bill for these very expensive procedures. In my time I saw dozens of cases involving, say, a 5-mph fender bender that resulted in these surgeries. It was almost as if plaintiff attorneys and doctors worked together to push them through because they would multiply damages 5-fold for the lawyer, and of course the doctor gets paid handsomely, too. The cost of some surgeries can approach $100,000. A few doctors were known for never seeing a patient who didn’t “need” these surgeries. Courts and juries, of course, take anything a doctor says on its face, and so they’d go along.
A study in JAMA now confirms these are grossly overprescribed and often a really bad idea, medically. Note that this particular study excluded patients admitted as a result of vehicle crashes or with vertebral fractures or dislocations, which nonetheless leaves many other injuries that can fit the pattern: slip-falls, workers comp back strains and so on. I think it’s safe to say that if the JAMA authors ever do a study looking at car crash plaintiffs, they’ll make similar findings.
By the way, the New York Times actually beat JAMA to the punch on some of this, like the doctors owning financial stakes in the surgical equipment companies.