Thousands taking unneeded health tests-UK doctors
By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of healthy people lured by
celebrity endorsements are taking expensive private medical
tests which they do not need and may even do them harm, British
doctors said on Tuesday.
In Britain alone last year 65 million pounds was spent on
private health screening and the business is booming across the
rich developed nations, British Medical Association president
Charles George said.
“It is big business. The independent sector has seen a
market and is exploiting it,” he said presenting a report —
Population Screening and Genetic Testing — critical of the
private screening sector.
“This is to the benefit of their wallets and little else.
It is very rare that any problems will be picked up,” he added.
The BMA said private screening often examined healthy
people who wanted reassurance and could produce misleading
results if it did not take account of people’s backgrounds and
their likelihood of developing certain diseases.
It said not only did false positive results cause trauma
and sometimes lead to unnecessary and painful surgery, but the
computerized CT scans using special X-ray equipment could cause
harm as they emitted much more radiation than a normal X-ray.
The BMA did not offer any specific explanation for the boom
in the global business, but George referred to growing numbers
of what he called the “worried well” — people concerned about
their health but lacking information.
Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s director of professional
activities, said testing should be targeted where it was most
effective — on ethnic or age groups known to be at risk.
She called for ad hoc testing to be properly regulated to
ensure quality and for the public to be fully informed about
the potential risks and benefits.
“These tests have very low benefits related to the risks,”
She expressed deep concern about genetic screening tests
performed without proper counseling that could not only
traumatize the individual but also members of their family and
even be used by life insurance companies to refuse cover.