Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Medical ethics: Fleecing the patients

This story is about what happened to me during the last few days:

- Nov 6. At a relative’s house I take a step without noticing the difference in floor levels and lose balance. I turn sharply on my left foot and avoid a fall.

- Next day. Slight pain and swelling on the left foot.

- Day 3, Saturday. Heavy swelling and pain. I go to a major hospital in Chennai. The top ortho doctor not available. A junior takes a look at the foot and says the ankle is fractured and/or twisted and it has to be in a cast for three weeks. Then he sends me for an X-ray.

- The (Rs.500) X-ray does not show any fracture, says the doctor. He adds that ligaments must be torn and that would show only on MRI. He does not insist on a scan but decides to go ahead with the cast.

- We buy the materials the doctor wants and the cast is done. Actually it is a ten minutes job for a good paramedic.

- The doctor prescribes some medicines and tells me to buy a pair of special boots from a particular shop.

- I am billed Rs.2500 for the Chief Doctor’s time. That man was not present!

- On Tuesday I meet a leading Ortho of Chennai at his new hospital. He looks at the X-ray and points out to what appeared to be a fracture. It was at a corner of the image. A new X-ray (Rs.150) confirms the fracture at the base of the small toe.

- The doctor tells me to keep the cast anyway because it was already on and happens to protect the affected part also. His charge is Rs.250.

What the glamour hospital did was criminal. The young doctor was incompetent and negligent. He was signing in the name of his boss. I was charged for the services of the Senior Doctor who was not even there. The amount was exorbitant.

I have to keep my feet up for a few days and no computer work. My mailbox is piling up. For publishing posts I have to take help from others. Really, I feel the need for a laptop now.

Lessons learned: 1. Always find out the charges before agreeing to a medical procedure. 2. With some hospitals and doctors making money seems to be the primary objective. Healing is incidental.

Also see:

The greatness of human nature – a true story

Medicine men of Olavipe

6 comments:

Nebu said...

You could have asked Abraham (Jr.) to take a photo of you with the cast and posted it! Get well soon.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

So sorry to hear of your accident.

And sorrier still to hear of you in the grip of unscrupulous medicine men. Can't you send a copy of this to a consumer's forum?

Get well soon.

Maiji said...

Sorry to read about your experience with doctors and their billings. I empathise with you for I had a similar experience two years back, while in Bombay. One night I had a fall when I got out of my bed, hitting my head on the ground which resulted in a big lump. Though the doctor was sure that no damage was done and everything ok, she advised us to take a scan and gave my daughter the name and addres of the doctor to go to. The scan showed all ok and no damage done. My daughter had to shell out Rs. 3,500 (only!). The punch line is , while I was waiting for the result, the doctor called up the lady doctor and thanked her for sending the patient to him.

Get well soon, and God Bless You.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear AT sir,

I was sorry to read about your mishap. I hope you are recovering fast .

It was indeed unethical of the hospital to have billed you for the fees of an expert when an upstart only had carried out the work!

Maddy said...

hope you are feeling better now & get well soon. I feel this comes from the need felt by the doctor to protect himself from increased social scrutiny, also due to a certain lack of confidence in his ability to make a diagnosis. Outside India this is the norm and all these tests are often resorted to for insurance rules & purposes and to avoid litigation. that is one of the reasons why health care is even more expensive outside India.

Kariyachan said...

AT sir;
It is sad to hear about the mishap.

These sort of 'business' is a norm these days I think.

Reminds me of a scene from the famous malayalam movie 'Dhwani' where Thilakan's character recommends to the Doctor (Suresh Gopi's character), to perform an Open Heart Surgery on a patient who came with some other minor issues, for billing sake.

Wishing you a speedy recovery.