As a doctor, my number one responsibility is to provide my patients with expert medical advice and prioritize their well-being over anything else. Unfortunately, as a Texan, I know my patients are surrounded by personal injury lawsuit ads that bombard them with misleading information and alarm them about unproven medical risks or threats to their health.
This can lead to patients doubting their medical treatment, or worse, taking matters into their own hands and stopping medication without consulting a doctor.
A new statewide survey of doctors by Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse proves my concerns aren’t unique — 66 percent of Texas physicians surveyed agree that personal injury lawsuit ads can cause patients to question their recommended treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in an ad. Another 88 percent of doctors agree that these ads can lead to patients discontinuing their medical treatments, and 3 out of 10 doctors surveyed have read or heard about patients suffering a negative health outcome due to personal injury lawsuit ads.
Personal injury lawyers spent nearly $900 million nationwide on advertising in 2015, saturating major media markets and misleading patients with unproven health information. Their effort doesn’t stop on TV or the radio, it continues online where patients are driven to personal injury lawyer-funded websites that pose as factual health information. This is a particularly disturbing trend to me and the rest of the medical field.
Advertisers from every industry try to persuade the public to buy what they’re selling, whether it’s a consumer product, a politician, or the like. Disturbingly, though, personal injury lawsuit ads can actually pose a threat to the health and safety of our patients.
I spent years in school and in training so that I would be qualified to give the best possible care and advice to my patients. Patient adherence is critical to ensuring that medical and prescription treatments work effectively. Without direction from a doctor, patients may be putting their health at serious risk. As a doctor, it worries me that patients may fall victim to the tactics personal injury lawyers use to recruit more plaintiffs.
As physicians, it’s our job to keep our patient’s health the top priority, but personal injury lawyers are only thinking about turning patients into plaintiffs. Patients should be cautious about what they believe from these ads and think about who is providing them the information and why.
It is difficult to over-emphasize the dangers that these ads can pose. If patients do have questions about a medication or treatment, it’s important to consult a doctor or another trusted medical professional first. Protect yourself from falling victim to personal injury lawyer tactics. Don’t let a lawyer be your doctor.
Dr. Christine L. Canterbury, MD, specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Corpus Christi Women’s Clinic and also serves as president of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Dr. Canterbury’s op-ed has appeared in numerous publications across the state of Texas, including this version in the Houston Chronicle.