Forty-two percent of doctors believe that patients are getting too much medical care, according to a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) yesterday.

Fifty-two percent said they felt patients were receiving just the right amount of care, and six percent, too little.

The United States has the world’s largest health care spending costs per capita at $5,475, with Switzerland being the next highest according to research published in Health Affairs, Agence France Presse reported.

Seventy-six percent of doctors said that they gave aggressive treatments due to fear of allegations of malpractice.

Nearly half of all enquiries, forty-five percent, could have been dealt with over the phone, say doctors. Twenty-eight percent felt their performance was over-aggressive.

The amount of time spent with patients was also felt to be little, as 40 percent said they did not have enough time.

The study led by Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire said that of the 627 doctors who filled out the questions 62 percent believed some subspecialists would cut back on some diagnostic tests if there was not a “financial incentive” that generated extra revenue.

The results are based on a survey sent out in by mail between June and December 2009.

"The extent to which fear of malpractice leads to more aggressive practice (so-called defensive medicine) has been hotly debated; based on our findings, we believe it is not a small effect." said the researchers.

"Physicians believe they are paid to do more and exposed to legal punishment if they do less," they added.