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Economic incentives made me do it!

Back in the middle ages, we were fond of explaining every problem by attributing it to God's will. That era is over, but we haven't abandoned our love of universal knee-jerk explanations for everything.

The New York Times has an article about the medical "misdiagnosis crisis" that resorts to our era's equivalent of God made me do it. Of course, I'm talking about "economic incentives."

Under the current medical system, doctors, nurses, lab technicians and hospital executives are not actually paid to come up with the right diagnosis. They are paid to perform tests and to do surgery and to dispense drugs.

There is no bonus for curing someone and no penalty for failing, except when the mistakes rise to the level of malpractice. So even though doctors can have the best intentions, they have little economic incentive to spend time double-checking their instincts, and hospitals have little incentive to give them the tools to do so.

While there may be some truth here, let's not forget that doctors are motivated by things other than money (although they sometimes make it difficult to convince others of this).

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