Defensive medicine: Medical practices designed to avert the future possibility of malpractice suits. In defensive medicine, responses are undertaken primarily to avoid liability rather than to benefit the patient. Doctors may order tests, procedures, or visits, or avoid high-risk patients or procedures primarily (but not necessarily solely) to reduce their exposure to malpractice liability. Defensive medicine is one of the least desirable effects of the rise in medical litigation. Defensive medicine increases the cost of health care and may expose patients to unnecessary risks.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016