Many physicians are concerned about being sued because of malpractice claims. To avoid this, they often perform unnecessary tests or treatments, which lead to additional risks and costs. This method, commonly referred to as defensive medicine, is discussed from an ethical perspective. Firstly, the forms and frequency of this behavior are examined. Secondly, its possible causes are described alongside a brief introduction of the legal background in Austria. Thirdly, the consequences faced by the individual or society are touched upon. Fourthly, its connection to the perception of health and illness, the concept of medical indication and the development of doctor-patient-relationships are explored. Fifthly, an analysis with regard to the four principles by Beauchamp and Childress is presented. Finally, some possible solutions are discussed.Studies from abroad together with the scarcity of Austrian data clearly indicate that defensive medicine is a widespread problem. It does not only include the aspects of overdiagnosis and overtreatment but can also result in the physicians refusal to perform risky, but necessary procedures. The multiple effects of this practice, which can be motivated by different unsettling factors, concern the individual patient as well as the health care system as such. Balancing risks, efforts, and costs against ones own fear of liability causes an ethical conflict, which affects different principles of medical ethics. Thus defensive medicine is definitely a delicate issue, which has not yet received adequate attention in the academic discourse in German-speaking countries.