Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Oxycontin, The New Gateway Drug?

Last year it was reported that around 70% of workers in Fort Hope Canada are frequent users of oxycontin, an opiate which is renowned for being highly addictive. The brand name oxycontin is a prescribed time-release form of the painkiller oxycodone. These drugs are designed for patients suffering with mediate to severe, acute or chronic pains. However the recreational use of oxycontin is a rising problem that has been discussed in the media frequently over the past decade. Many concerned parents fear that oxycontin is too easily accessible and has become the new gateway drug that could lead on to illegal class A drugs such as heroin.

Oxycotin
The basics

Oxycontin is an opioid that was first manufactured in 1996 as a fast acting medicine for people suffering fairly severe pains. Like any other opioid the medicine derives from the opium poppy which is also used to create diamorphine (heroin). Opioids work by binding to the opioid receptors found naturally in the human brain and nervous system, and the gastrointestinal tract.

The medicinal use of opioids predates recorded history,  used for reducing the perception of and reaction to pain. The painkiller oxycontin was designed to provide instant and long lasting relief through slowly releasing the chemical into the body. On release the company Purdue Pharma claimed that there should be less risk of abuse with this form of oxycodone due to it being a time-release drug. However by 2000 there were widespread cases of substance abuse in patients with prescriptions, and in recreational users who had gained it illegally.

Gateway possibilities

People who abuse oxycontin, often crush it up to inject or snort providing an instant high. However in 2010 Purdue Pharma released the reformulated oxycontin which when crushed, cut or broken was less effective as a narcotic. This was designed to deter recreational use of the drug and ensure that it was only used for medicinal purposes. However instead of deterring recreational use many addicts started using heroin instead. In recent years the number of heroin addicts and dealers has been on the rise, many put this down to oxycontin. Oxycontin has been described as being as potent as heroin and twice as addictive. In addition to this, it is much more expensive. With it being more difficult and more expensive to get high on the legal drug, addicts have little choice but to move onto heroin.

Whilst abusing oxycontin is dangerous enough, heroin abuse carries far more risks. People who abuse legal medicines are told on the packaging how many milligrams of opioids they are going to ingest, but heroin is completely ambiguous. When buying illegally users don’t know how much opium they are buying and what the drug has been cut with, this means the risks of overdose and death are much higher.

Spotting addiction

If you know someone who has been prescribed oxycontin and are concerned that they are abusing the drug, remember that as well as the initial euphoric effects of opioids, there are a number of visible side effects.

- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Itching
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety
- Restlessness
- Visibly shaking
oxycontin
In addition to these physical symptoms addicts are often erratic and prone to mood swings. As relieving the symptoms of withdrawal becomes their main priority, they may sell possessions in order to get their next fix. Some oxycontin addicts and the majority of heroin addicts inject the drug, usually into their arms or legs, leaving distinctive scars and scabs.

The new gateway drug?

Considering how addictive oxycontin is, there is certainly a risk of users leading on to illegal substances such as heroin. People who are actively searching for prescription drugs, purely to get high on will be likely to use other substances that provide a similar high. However the term ‘gateway drug’ is often associated with softer substances, particularly cannabis. Users of cannabis may go on to seek a more intense or stronger high after being a recreational smoker for some time.

Opioids provide a much stronger high and recreational drug users are likely to have experimented with other drugs before using it, it would rarely be considered as a ‘starter’ drug like cannabis. On the other hand patients who have been prescribed oxycontin with no previous intentions of abusing substances are potentially at risk of becoming addicted. Despite originally intending to take oxycontin to relieve pain, patients may take more than recommended and eventually become hooked. Once someone is in the grip of addiction their need to get high overcomes their rationality and illegal substances may be the only option to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.

An avid writer, Stanely Martinson is interested in all things pertaining to health and health care.  Recently his fascination has turned towards addiction and rehabilitation.  For more information on rehab, read this.

The Importance of Proper Skincare

The skin is probably the hardest working, as well as the largest, organ of the human body. It contains, protects and regulates the temperature of the body so that you can function normally, and it wears out pretty quickly. The good news is skin cells are constantly being replaced, which is why we are not working around in ragged and raddled strips. The bad news is few people recognize the importance of proper skin care.

Because the skin is the first defense against disease, extreme temperatures and the physical stresses of daily life, it is in your best interest to keep it in tip-top condition. Like with any other organ in the body, healthy skin does its job better and more efficiently than unhealthy ones. When skin is damaged, it becomes more vulnerable to skin diseases like skin cancer, rashes, exczema, fungus and infection. It also looks bad what with age spots, wrinkles and uneven or unhealthy skin tones.

skincare

Skin can be damaged in a number of ways, but the most common way is through sun exposure. Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays that penetrate the epidermis and causes mutations in the skin’s cellular DNA. In fact, a tan or reddening skin is simply the skin’s weak attempt to protect itself from further DNA damage.

There are three layers to skin, the topmost of which is the epidermis. This is the most exposed part so it’s also the one that needs to be constantly replaced. It’s also the layer that darkens when you sunbathe so it contains melanin which gives you your skin color and provides some protection from UV rays. The dermis is next, and this is where collagen and elastin are present. It makes the skin pliable, and provides the support for the epidermis. The dermis also has the nerve endings and blood vessels, so when you cut your finger, that’s where the pain and blood is coming from. Right beneath it is a layer of fat called subcutaneous fat, which insulates the body and serves as a shock absorber. So the good news is a little fat is good, but a lot can result in the unsightly dimples we call cellulite.

Everyday things we do and use can cause skin damage. These include but not limited to; hot showers or baths; swimming; pregnancy; harsh or scented body cleansing products; chemical-based cosmetics; smoking; drinking;  and sunbathing. Not drinking enough water, failing to use moisturizers after a hot shower or swimming and using some soaps dries out the skin, leaving it vulnerable to the elements. A thin layer of oil on the skin protects the body from most disease-causing elements. Non-natural cosmetic products, smoking, excess drinking and sunbathing introduces toxic substances directly on or into the body, effectively cancelling out the shielding function of the skin over time.

If you want to remain or be healthy, you need to take care of your first line of defense: your skin. Without healthy skin, anything you do will be seriously compromised.

This was a guest post written by Barry, who is an expert on skincare.  To check his site out click here.

Electronic Cigarettes as a Smoking Cessation Aid

Considering electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid is part and parcel of society’s attempts to quell a health menace. The health risks associated with smoking is indisputable. It is the leading cause of 20% of all deaths in the US every year, and the government has done its best to make it more difficult to continue the habit by imposing no smoking laws and increasing taxes for tobacco products to prohibitive heights. The attendant health risks are so extensive that to continue smoking is an exercise in insanity.

But smoking cessation is easier said than done. The addictive effects of nicotine in cigarettes make it difficult to easily stop smoking. Nicotine is an alkaloid that is present in tobacco to as much as 3%, with a yield of 1 mg per cigarette. It is a stimulant that has addictive effects, and some tobacco companies have actually increased the nicotine content in their products. Nicotine can be fatal if taken in large doses, from 30 to 60 mg depending on the smoker’s tolerance, which is approximately 30 cigarettes in one sitting.

Electronic Ciggaretes

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for smoking cessation allows the smoker to get the buzz it wants from cigarettes by direct dosing of nicotine. These take the form of patches, gums, and pastilles and are considered good aids to smoking cessation although there are some who claim that nicotine is just as bad in its on its own as it is in cigarettes. Considering the alternative (continued smoking) it’s a risk most smokers desperate to quit are willing to take.

A more recent addition to the NRT family is electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid aims to address two issues that most habitual smokers have: nicotine addiction and an oral fixation. Most smokers light up when they are nervous, bored or stressed, and find that having something in their mouth is soothing. That is why electronic cigarettes are designed to simulate cigarettes as closely as possible. It is actually a battery-powered vaporizer which atomizes a liquid with a quantity of nicotine to simulate smoke being inhaled and exhaled.

The advantages of using an electronic cigarette as compared to other NRT alternatives is that the smoker can gradually decrease the amount of nicotine in the system by simply tuning down the nicotine content in the cartridges. Each cartridge contains the equivalent of 40 cigarettes. For those dedicated to quit smoking, they choose cartridges which contain no nicotine at all, but they are apt to experience withdrawal symptoms which can lead to a relapse, similar to going cold turkey. The liquid in these cartridges are called e-juice or e-liquid, and combines a glycol- or glyceryn-based solution (normally used as food additives to such products as toothpaste and asthma inhalers) mixed with a flavoring agent such as menthol, cola, vanilla, or chocolate, plus an optional dose of nicotine. It is recommended that the smoker gradually decrease the nicotine content until the body adjusts to the altered content until nicotine is no longer necessary.

Health benefits of Spirulina

There are many claims out there about “superfoods” that could easily and painlessly lead you to better health. One of these is claims that have been exciting worldwide interest is of the health benefits of organic spirulina.

Spirulina is a blue-green cyanobacteria, similar to algae, that grows in warm climates in freshwater alkaline-rich bodies of water such as ponds and lakes. It’s not unlike kelp or nori. It is considered a superfood because of the amount of protein, vitamins and minerals it contains. It is at least 50% protein, compared to meat which is averages 27%, with all the essential amino acids, which is probably why the Aztecs and Kanembu people used it as a food source. Spirulina also contains Vitamin B6 and high levels of B12, A, C and K as well as manganese, zinc, potassium and iron. Its calcium, magnesium and phosphorus content equal that of milk while it provides more Vitamin E than that of wheat germ, B12 as much as liver.

Spirulina is considered the best single source of gamma-linoleic acid, a fatty acid needed for healthy joints and heart that is rarely found in sufficient amounts in regular food, as well as sulfolipids which boosts the immune system.

In modern society, some form of spirulina is included in health food and beverages, including energy drinks and bars. It is also available as powder, flakes or tablets for retail consumption. Because the protein in

Spirulinaspirulina is easy to digest, the body can use it more efficiently without cooking.

In the wild, spirulina can be found in Mexico and Africa, but it is easy to cultivate it anywhere in the world. It multiples rapidly and are easily harvested as they grow in close-knit colonies. The production of spirulina is projected to top 220,000 tons in less than 7 years. Currently, Japan is both the largest producer and consumer of spirulina.

In terms of health benefits, spirulina is believed to have significant positive effects on:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) – spirulina has lutein and zeaxanthin, pigments which help protect the eyes from damage by ultraviolet radiation. It may also help prevent cataract formation by the presence of xanthophylls from zeaxanthin

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease – Spirulina reduces the risk of insulin resistance by decreasing episodes of systemic inflammation and the phycocyanin content improves the lipid profile associated with onset of diabetes and development of cardiovascular disease. For those who are overweight, spirulina improves vasodilation or widening of the blood vessels, which helps reduce the risks associated with diabetes and heart disease.

Chronic liver disease – Spirulina prevents the accumulation of fats in the liver because of high levels of antioxidants present . These benefits include reducing triglyceride buildup, lipid perodixation, and inflammation as well a protects against heavy metal damage

Strokes and neurogenerative disorders – The antioxidants in spirulina reduces the risk of stroke and degenerative disorders such as Alzheimers by reducing platelet aggregation and inflammation caused by free radicals in the blood. The antioxidant properties of spirulina are associated with its phycocyanobilin component which is also anti-inflammatory. Phycocyanobilin is thought to approximate the action of bilirubin, which aside from reducing the risks of heart disease is also thought to reduce the risk of:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

There is a lot of evidence supporting the health benefits of spirulina, both for humans and animals. Its biggest health benefit is boosting the immune system.

The Importance of Medical Directories for Poor Patient

The importance of medical directories for poor patients is a question of access. Healthcare access has been an ongoing problem for many of the poor in the US. Because they are not covered by government health insurance, and cannot afford private insurance unless an employer provides it, many are uninsured. As a consequence, few have regular doctors and would be hard put to find one at a pinch. This is where medical directories can be of significant help.

Medical directories provide a list of physicians, their licenses, their specialties, their location, health insurance and contact information. Many areas in the US have a scarcity of doctors, and medical directories help poor patients to find one who can help them with their health problems easier than to go to a hospital and seek a referral. This can lead to significant savings.

Medical Directories

Moreover, since medical directories provide contact information, poor patients can inquire about a doctor’s availability to new patients, rates and health management affiliations without having to go there personally. They can also inquire about payment terms or healthcare packages should one be necessary if the doctor is not accredited with the health insurance in question, or perhaps ask for a referral. In many cases, inquiries with a doctor’s clinic can lead to referrals to a community health center or perhaps information about eligibility for some type of public health program.

Medical directories also ensure that poor patients are consulting with a state-licensed doctor in good standing, and that they are the right doctor to go to regarding their health concern. For example, if there is a need for prenatal care, then a listing for obstetricians would be very helpful. Pregnant women, moreover, are covered under Medicaid provided they qualify income-wise. They could then be referred to a clinic that has Medicaid accreditation.

For poor patients who may have some health coverage in some form, knowing which doctors in the area who are accredited with a specific health insurance can narrow the list of possible candidates significantly.  Most health insurance companies have their own medical directory of accredited physicians, but if they don’t then a general medical directory would be the alternative. There are several websites that provide this information for free, and may even improve the chances of poor patients of finding the most affordable competent doctor in the area. This is not as easy as it may sound; there is a shortage of competent medical practitioners in many rural areas in the US, and may sometimes require travel of long distances that many poor patients may not afford to do lightly. Medical directories eliminate many of the unknowns in the search for a physician for poor patients.

When poor patients need medical attention, they can’t afford a mistake in finding their physician. Medical directories provide information that can minimize the costs to the patient in many ways, and may even provide a way to find some sort of coverage for those who are eligible and cannot pay for private healthcare.

Source: http://www.medisato.com

The Importance of Mouthwash and Flossing For Your Teeth

Oral healthcare is one of the most overlooked healthcare issue worldwide, and this includes a poor understanding of the importance of mouthwash and flossing for your teeth. Most people buy toothbrush and toothpaste and call it good dental hygiene. But the fact is, brushing, even done properly, is not enough.

This lack of attention for the nooks and crannies of the mouth is responsible for many cases of oral disease. It does not make sense to understate the importance of mouthwash and flossing for your teeth because it can prevent costly restoration and treatment, even serious illness, later on. Prevention is always better than curing of health problems, and works out better for everyone concerned, including the financial angle.

The importance of flossing has been getting some slight attention. Flossing gets rid of the food debris and plaque that may be building up between the teeth. If not attended to, these can cultivate bacteria that produce acid which will attack the protective surfaces of the teeth as well as the gums. These will eventually lead to cavity formation and gum irritation, which in turn can worsen into tooth loss and full-blown gum disease. Moreover, this build up of bacteria can lead to infections in the mouth that can spread through the entire body, resulting in serious health issues.

Dental professionals recommend that flossing should be done prior to brushing to ensure that all the food debris is washed away. It is also recommended that while flossing once a day is sufficient, flossing in tandem with brushing is better.

Mouthwash

More people floss more than they use mouthwash because most people believe that mouthwash has no other function than to freshen breath. The fact is, a good alcohol-free mouthwash kills the bacteria that may still remain between the teeth even after flossing and brushing as well as the rest of the mouth including the gums, tongue and walls of the mouth. The bacteria that remain without the use of a mouthwash can cause a bad odor in the mouth or halitosis. A properly formulated mouthwash helps keep the mouth sterile by stimulating the production of saliva, which prevents bacterial growth in the mouth, especially during sleep when the mouth is mostly closed.

But not all mouthwashes work the way they are supposed to for good oral health. Some popular mouthwashes which are commercially available contain a high level of alcohol, which dries out the mouth. These often produce a stinging in the mouth that indicates alcohol. This is the opposite of what is desirable, which is more saliva, not less. When purchasing mouthwash, make sure that you choose one which is alcohol-free. If in doubt, get the recommendation of your dentist.

It should be noted that while the importance of mouthwash and flossing for your teeth is undeniable, these are not enough to ensure good oral health. Regular dental checkups and a yearly teeth cleaning and scaling are still necessary to minimize the cost of dental and gum problems in the long term.

This was a guest post by Robert Don who is a well known Irvine Dentist.

The best diet for people suffering from Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which violently objects to gluten in the diet. Any presence of gluten in a sufferer’s gastrointestinal tract will lead to the inflammation of the small intestines, seriously damaging it over time. Pretty soon, the small intestines will no longer be able to absorb nutrients, leading to overall poor chronic health. The disease affects about 1% of the American population, but evidence suggests that the incidence of Celiac disease is increasing by a rate of 100% every two decades.

The best diet for people suffering from Celiac disease would be a gluten-free diet. It is much easier now that the media attention on the so-called health benefits of eliminating gluten from food has spurred food manufacturers to offer gluten-free food products on the market.  But it is important to note here that for those without Celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity issues that these much-touted health benefits have no basis on scientific fact.

Medifast

When planning for a gluten-free diet, it is best to consult with a physician and/or dietitian to ensure a well-balanced diet in terms of protein, carbohydrate, fiber and fat content. It may take some time to get used to not biting into that pizza or savoring a piece of cake, but the alternative is much more horrendous. With enough will power and motivation, following the best diet for people suffering from Celiac disease that your medical professional recommends would be much easier in the long term.

The gluten-free shopping list would eliminate the following food products:

  • Anything with wheat, including white flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, white or whole wheat bread, tortillas, beer, couscous
  • Cookies, cereals, crackers, gravies, dressings and sauces (unless specified to be gluten-free)
  • Oats (only because it may be contaminated with gluten)
  • Graham flour
  • Semolina
  • Triticale
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Imitation fish
  • Hotdogs and other deli meats
  • Soy sauce
  • Matzo
  • Pasta mixes

There are a lot more foodstuffs in the supermarket that may contain gluten that is not in the list. Make sure to check the nutrition information for wheat, barley or rye-based ingredients and additives. Note that only those labeled gluten-free is allowed; wheat-free isn’t the same thing.

Here are the things a Celiac disease sufferer can enjoy:

  • Corn (such as corn tortillas)
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Beans
  • Arrowroot
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Tapioca
  • Kasha
  • Gluten-free baked products
  • Potatoes (sweet potatoes are best)
  • Quinoa
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy (not soy sauce)

Because a gluten-free diet is rather limited in the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by the body, those on it need to supplement their intake. Many gluten-free food contain more carbohydrates than the gluten-rich equivalents so careful monitoring of the carbohydrate intake is necessary, especially those with diabetes.

It is also completely desirable to eschew gluten-free prepared foods for home cooked ones as it is less likely to contain any hidden surprises.

This was a guest post written by the owner of Healthy You.  He is a provider of a medifast coupon he wants you to check out.

The Importance of Flossing In Maintaining Dental Healt

This is a guest post written by Ron from Hawkesbury Dentist, who’s an expert on the importance of dental care. If you wish to learn more about the importance of dentistry please click here.

Why do people floss? It’s time consuming, rather icky and often leads to bleeding gums from inadvertent nudging. And how the heck do you know you’re doing it right.

Flossing can be a pain in the neck, and most people don’t bother to do it regularly, if at all. But the fact is flossing is as important as brushing your teeth for good oral health because it reaches places that a toothbrush can’t. Brushing and flossing are effectively two sides to a coin; good luck having one without the other.

Brushing removes plaque and food particles from the surface of the teeth, making your smile sparkly. But flossing removes the same thing from between the teeth. Since it isn’t usually immediately evident, most people can pretend that there’s nothing there, nothing at all. That is, until the next visit to the dentist and the drill comes out.

Flossing is primarily responsible for preventing periodontal disease, a fancy way of saying gum disease. Gums can get irritated when plaque builds up between the teeth, forming tartar which makes gums red and sensitive. If your gums bleed when you brush, chances are you are at high risk of gum disease. It also means you don’t floss.

Floss Your Teeth

Gum diseases that can develop because you don’t floss include gingivitis, which is the reddening and bleeding of gums, and the more serious periodontitis, where gums separate from the teeth to alleviate the irritation of the tartar build up. Spaces form between the gum and teeth, where bacteria will start to breed. The bacteria will eventually destroy the tissues holding your tooth in place if you wait long enough. It can get loose enough that you can play your teeth like a piano. By that time, it’ll be too late to save the tooth.

Another benefit of flossing is preventing your tooth from rotting. Tooth decay (dental caries) can develop when the starch and sugars in the food stuck between your teeth breaks down the cells of the hard protective layers of the tooth (enamel, dentin and cementum). If left untreated, this rotting (demineralization) will lead to the formation of cavities in the tooth. The breakdown continues until the tooth is gone, or a dentist treats it, whichever comes first.

Another, rather obvious if you really think about it, function of flossing is avoiding bad breath. Imagine having food stuck between your teeth for a week. It’s sure to rot, so if you start smelling the bacon you had two days ago, only a little riper, then it’s time to break out the floss.

Aside from all the money you’ll save from having to visit the dentist or dentures made, flossing regularly ensures that you will still have all or most of your own teeth in old age. Dentists recommend flossing at least once a day, and that it should be done before brushing your teeth. This will ensure that your tongue won’t encounter a nibble of food as you’re going out the door or dropping off to sleep.

How to Slow Down Aging

Diet and exercise can get you physically fit and healthy, but there are some diets and some forms of exercise that can make you look older than you have to be. This is a trade-off that most people are not willing to make, so it would be a good idea to know how to slow down aging in terms of how you look while improving your overall physical condition.

Slowing down the Effects of Aging-1

You need to exercise every day, but avoid the sun.

A lot of people know that regular exercise is important for health, but there are some regimens that should be judiciously scheduled. Swimming, biking and running are all good cardiovascular workouts, but the damage done by UV rays on the skin is a real killer. If you really like to be outdoors, avoid doing so between 11 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are at its strongest. Be sure to wear sunscreen against UV exposure (both A and B) at all times.

Make sure you do some weight training to build muscle and increase bone density. As we grow older, we lose bone mass, which is why older people tend to break bones more easily. To prevent this, improve the quality your body’s support structure by lifting weights. You can also help this along by taking Vitamin D supplements (400 IU) a day.

Eat well, eat right, drink a lot

Going on a diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just trying to lose weight. Reducing your food intake will not ensure you’ll become healthier or that it will slow down aging. What will help you in this case is to load up on what some call anti-aging superfoods. These include nuts, berries, whole grains, dark (not milk) chocolate, beans, lean protein such as salmon and most fruits and vegetables.  You should also favor polyunsaturated oil such as sunflower or lauric oil as it lowers your cholesterol numbers.

Food that you should avoid includes dairy products, red meat, processed food, anything with corn syrup or sugar, excess salt, white breads and rice. Sugar in food and beverages are also poison to the skin, so avoid it as well.

Use lots of garlic and onions for their immunologic effects. Wild More exotic recommendations include yam root (rejuvenation and fat burning), licorice root (anti-inflammatory and anti-allergen) and  ginseng (for better circulation and brain function).

Anti-aging drinks include pomegranate juice, green tea and of course, water. The biggest benefit of drinking adequate amounts of sugar-free beverages is hydration, which keeps the skin supple and keeps the body functioning optimally. Moreover, drinking at least 40 oz a day of gold old water reduces heart disease risk factors by more than 50%, while the antioxidants in green tea helps you lose weight, prevent inflammation of internal organs and reduces the risk of cancer.  Pomegranate juice has been known to help in sexual vigor, and nothing promotes youthful well-being more than a healthy sex life!

Stress is something you can start managing immediately and see visible results. Overstressed people tend to have reduced brain function and thicker waistlines, so you need to deal with it in a constructive way.  Focus on finding stress relief methods that work for you, and get enough sleep. Avoid excessive alcoholic intake and smoking as it increases your stress levels and speeds up your body’s deterioration.

So there you have it, all the tools you need to slow down aging. It all begins with keeping it real and  keeping it in control that is the best anti-aging treatment.

Medical Negligence in America

The cost of healthcare in the US is a hot topic today, mostly because it is so high. The US spends more per capita than any other country in the world, and represents more than 15% of its Gross Domestic Product. In 2010, its healthcare costs was $2.6 trillion.

For every $1 spent on health care, 20% can be traced back to physician and clinical services and 31% to hospital care. Those figures in themselves are hardly surprising, but recently there has been a rising concern that a significant portion of these percentages are due to unnecessary clinical tests and high medical malpractice insurance premiums. The reason for this stems from avoidance of liability for medical negligence lawsuits.

Doctors, other medical professionals and hospitals are often the target for a potential medical malpractice suit, and in the US, it is of particular concern.  Americans live under a system that assures them of adequate healthcare. While actual medical malpractice costs comprise only a small portion of healthcare costs, it is the efforts to prevent it are what is contributing more to rising healthcare costs in the US than effective healthcare.

To guard against such lawsuits, doctors and medical professionals tend to order extensive tests and procedures even for quite minor injuries or complaints because they are wary of being accused of negligence. This is referred to as “defensive medicine.” Medical negligence in the US is defined as the failure of a medical professional to provide the “applicable standard of care” to a patient. But what most people don’t realize is medical negligence per se does not necessarily lead to a medical malpractice suit. It is only when a patient suffers an injury as a result of the negligence, and can prove that it was a direct consequence of a medical professional’s actions, that it can then be elevated to a lawsuit. medicalN-6

Perhaps this is why the statistics on medical negligence and medical malpractice can sometimes be confusing. Incidents of medical negligence may far outstrip medical malpractice lawsuits, mainly because accountability can be difficult to prove. Only a small percentage of patients go to the trouble and expense of a claim, even when the facility for no win no fee medical negligence claims is available. But the mere possibility of a claim keeps hospitals and medical professionals wary about giving even the appearance of neglect. In consequence, patients are subjected to extensive and often unnecessary procedures and tests so that they will feel their injury or medical complaint was given due attention. Unfortunately, the healthcare system in the US decrees it is the taxpayers that bear the brunt of this particular burden.

The proposed caps on damages awarded to claimants is not the solution as the specter of medical negligence claims still looms large over medical professionals. Until a more effective healthcare reform that will prescribe a reasonable standard of medical care and treatment that precludes unnecessary tests and procedures is designed, healthcare costs in the US will continue to be a problem.