Defensive Deliveries

Do doctors perform caesareans just to avoid malpractice suits?

HAVING A BABY IS NO HARDER OR RISKIER THAN IT ever was. So why are caesarean sections now used in 23% of all U.S. births, up from only 5% in 1965? Most people have long suspected, and many doctors agree, that fear of malpractice suits haunts the delivery rooms. When complications arise, or the labor is unusually long and hard, many physicians apparently feel safer bringing out the scalpel than trying to let nature take its course.

But evidence linking caesareans to malpractice fears was scant -- until a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientists analyzed...

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