Overtreatment Is Taking a Harmful Toll
When it comes to medical care, many patients and doctors believe more is better.
But an epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine, and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death.
“What people are not realizing is that sometimes the test poses harm,” said Shannon Brownlee, acting director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation and the author of “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer,” a 2007 book.
“Sometimes the test leads you down a path, a therapeutic cascade, where you start to tumble downstream to more and more testing, and more and more invasive testing, and possibly even treatment for things that should be left well enough alone.”
Have you experienced too much medicine? As part of The New York Times’s online series The Agenda, I asked readers to share their stories. More than 1,000 responded, with examples big and small.
The article continues to examine many instances of overtreatment. More than 140 readers posted comments. Of course, Illich's concern was not so much over-expenditure on medical care but the harm and extra suffering that the medical system causes those in its care.