Under proposed bill, doctors don’t have to tell you everything

A new bill in Wisconsin could change what doctors are required to tell their patients about alternative treatments available to them, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

Right now, doctors are required to tell patients about tests and treatments for any symptoms a patient has, even if doctors don’t believe the patient has that underlying condition.

While they said patient safety is their top priority, some have different definitions as to what that really means.

“Most of us in health care are in favor of this bill just because it doesn’t make much sense without it,” said Kristen Lerberg, a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

She said patients don’t need to know about every single test and treatment available if she doesn’t think they will help.

“It’s a waste of time,” said Lerberg. “It’s scares patients unnecessarily for things that they don’t have.”


The new bill would change the law and no longer require doctors to tell patients about every alternative tests or procedures if they don’t think their patient needs them.

Lerberg said the new bill not only has the potential to save time, but also money.

“If a young healthy non-smoking patient comes in to see me about a cough, if I treat her the way that I treat her now appropriately, she’s probably going to have a $120 office visit charge,” said Lerberg. “If I have to do pulmonary function and a CAT scan, that simple bronchitis is going to cost her probably more around $3,000.”

“The real world is it could have an effect on how someone’s life is affected for the rest of their life,” said Joe Veenstra, attorney at Johns, Flaherty and Collins in La Crosse.

Veenstra said sometimes patients want to know about all the options to decide for themselves.

“I don’t think any physician intends to not inform their patients of risks that might be inherent in a procedure or not having a certain test, but there are these outlier cases that things happen,” said Veenstra.

Veenstra said it could also make it more expensive to prosecute these types of cases.
But Lerberg said doctors should be able to use their professional judgment to provide the best care for patients.

“I think we depend on that team effort, and the patient taking ownership of their health and the doctors recommending the right treatments and then these extra layers of safety that come with our technology and our communication systems that we have in place that allow us to provide that safe care without any additional risk,” said Lerberg.

The bill passed in the Judiciary Committee Thursday and is now on its ways to the full Assembly.