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J Am Coll Radiol. 2012 Apr;9(4):251-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.11.017.

A medical student perspective on self-referral and overutilization in radiology: application of the four core principles of medical ethics.

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Department of Radiology, University of Utah, School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132-2140, USA.


There is contention within the medical community surrounding imaging self-referral, in which providers refer patients to imaging facilities from which they receive financial returns. Controversy surrounds the assertion that self-referral leads to overutilization, or the application of imaging resources and services in situations in which patients are unlikely to benefit. Proponents of self-referral claim that the practice provides increased convenience, timelier diagnosis, more expeditious treatment, and decreased cost, while opponents believe that the practice results in the inappropriate ordering of unnecessary imaging studies. Given the importance of this subject and the magnitude of its potential economic impact, it is important to restore objectivity. The 4 core principles of medical ethics--autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice--represent a useful and well-established paradigm. This review article addresses the question of whether self-referral upholds these 4 principles and thus whether it is an ethical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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