By: Vickie Townzen,
As a nurse of 42 years, I understand the huge responsibility of protecting the health of my patients. And over those years, I have seen trends in medicine come and go……but recently I have found one trend to be very disturbing. It’s the abundance of personal injury lawyer advertising and its startling effect on patients.
These dramatized warnings often lead patients to discontinue health care treatments – with or without consulting their doctor, who may believe these treatments provide the best health benefits for the patient while posing little or manageable risk. According to Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA), 82 percent of Texas doctors said that personal injury lawsuit ads can lead patients to stop taking their medicines as prescribed. In the same report, three out of 10 doctors said they have actually seen or heard of patients doing just that – stopping their treatments without consulting a physician.
The potential consequences of stopping medical treatments can be disastrous, even fatal. There are 30 known cases of patients suffering serious medical problems after seeing a personal injury ad and stopping their medication. Two of those patients died. Two others were paralyzed.
These risks are real in Texas, and they can’t be ignored.
Many Texans face serious medical conditions that require treatment, and as more patients question their care after seeing personal injury lawyer ads, more people are starting to take notice. This year, at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) annual conference, doctors announced a new resolution to advocate that such advertisements include a warning that patients should first consult with a physician before suspending or halting a treatment. The AMA’s concern is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.
Americans are overwhelmed by aggressive lawsuit advertising. In 2015, personal injury lawyer advertising spending reached nearly $900 million, largely targeting prescription drugs or medical devices and treatments. What’s worse, these ads are becoming more common – not less. The $892 million spent last year is a 68 percent jump from the $531 million spent in 2008. In fact, legal ad spending grew six times faster than all other television ad spending between 2008 and 2014. Those are bad symptoms of a growing problem.
These ads use sensationalized and misleading information to lure or scare people into lawsuits. The ads warn viewers of the dangers of health care treatments, often misinforming them and including a long list of “possible” side effects.
While we can tell patients to be aware of the information they see in these ads over and over again, we need to consider what else can be done to fix the problem. We need to call on our legislators to start talking about a resolution. Right now, the prescription for improvement is unclear, but if we work together and to put our health before profit for personal injury lawyers, we may find a solution.
A patient’s health is no small matter. As a medical professional, I urge all Texans to listen to personal injury lawyer ads with extreme caution. If you have question – ask your doctor. After all, you wouldn’t take legal advice from your doctor - so why would you take medical advice from a lawyer?