The physician made a mistake; can I get my money back?

  1. This was a question posed on a general discussion board that I participate on. The posters' adult son had an emergency appendectomy and in the process the surgeon nicked his bladder requiring a few extra days in the hospital. The poster was wondering how she could go about not getting charged for those extra days and the additional services and medicines provided since after all, it was the surgeon's error. I'm of the opinion that something like that would be one of the risks covered in the informed consent. I mean, there are no guarantees right? Especially not a money-back guarantee. BUT now I'm wondering, maybe I'm a little harsh. I've never worked in OR, could some of you OR nurses guide my thinking a little? When I worked on a surgical floor I recall that rarely we would get patients with a nick or something but maybe I'm way off. Was the surgeon a hack? I'm the last person to try to protect a physician's pocketbook but if we are offering 100% satisfied or your money back guarantees, then the healthcare system is in trouble, no?
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    About SharonH, RN

    Joined: May '01; Posts: 4,438; Likes: 3,919
    Jack of all trades; from US
    Specialty: 20 year(s) of experience in Med/Surg, Geriatrics


  3. by   Blee O'Myacin
    Perhaps the physican should foot the bill, but there is no reason why the hospital should eat the expense and not bill the insurance company. The nurses, aides, housekeeping, residents, interns, and other hospital personnel contributed to the care of this patient while he was hospitalized for the complication and should be compensated for their work. Just because your car was hit by the fault of another doesn't mean you don't pay the owner of the body shop - whether by your insurance policy or by that of the person at fault. Perhaps this person should seek the advise of an attorney to better know their rights in this situation.

  4. by   CritterLover
    in general, i agree with blee.
    [color=#483d8b]while i don't think physician's should be sued for every little thing that goes wrong with a procedure/surgery, i don't think the patient should have to foot the bill for the mistake. in most cases, i think requesting medical expenses is very reasonable.
    [color=#483d8b]however, no physician is going to agree to pay for those expenses without being sued first. why? even if they wanted to "do the right thing," paying for those expenses would be construed as an admisssion of wrong-doing. without a signed settlement from the injured party, they would open themselves up for a "pain and suffering" lawsuit down the road.
    [color=#483d8b]also, some patients have atypical anatomy, causing their procedure to be more difficult than the same procedure on someone else. in those instances, i don't think that the surgeon should be held responsible, as long as they wern't negligent.
  5. by   leslie :-D
    honestly sharon, i think a legal consult would answer any/all questions.
    personally i don't have a clue as to what his legal rights are.

  6. by   SCRN1
    It's one of the risks with an appendectomy and should've been somewhere in the consent that something like this could happen. No, I don't think the physician should pay and I don't think the parents should sue. Instead, I think the parents should be thankful that the physician removed the appendix before it ruptured and the child became septic and possibly died.
  7. by   SharonH, RN
    Quote from critterlover
    in general, i agree with blee.
    [color=#483d8b] without a signed settlement from the injured party, they would open themselves up for a "pain and suffering" lawsuit down the road.

    i hadn't thought about that aspect of it.

    i was curious what other nurses' viewpoint would be from a medical standpoint rather than a legal one but you make some good points.
  8. by   caliotter3
    I agree with every point made by all who have responded so far. What a dilemma. The care was necessary and provided so somebody has to pay for it. This is one for an attorney's attention, there are many aspects to be explored legally before a decision to sue on anybody's part. I even see something for an "ethics committee", but this would probably be dismissed by the hospital's consideration b/c they are looking only for their own interests and would try to talk the pt down. Somehow I see a shared resp, but don't ask me who should pay it!
  9. by   SCRN1
    Why does everyone seem to be so sue happy? Like I said above, this is one of the risks of this kind of surgery and should've been addressed in the consent signed prior to surgery. I have taken care of many surgical patients and lots have had nicks and no doctor has been able to be sued. Because of the close anatomical location, nicking a bladder is a risk of removing an appendix. I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose or out of negligence.
  10. by   caliotter3
    The topic of lawsuits comes up b/c people sue. The healthcare industry (and it is an industry in every sense of the word, including the negative associations) gets defensive, anticipating lawsuits. It does not matter what the circumstances are: if not convinced otherwise people with axes to grind or dollar signs in their eyes or legitimate wrongs to be righted or a combination (depending on viewpoints) will sue. DEEP POCKETS are alluring.
    The most religious of the religious will not listen to "It was God's will" when they decide they want money or they want to assauge their own guilt in a medical matter.
  11. by   meownsmile
    I think critterlover nailed it.
  12. by   lauralassie
    It's life, bad things happen. I get so sick of sueing. I see all of those comercials on TV, "if you've taken this medication, or you know some one who did or died or had complications, or got cold in the winter, or hot in the summer, or blinked their eyes too much during the day or sneezed ....give me a call.....I don't make money unless you do. " People get old , die baby's are somethimes unhealthy despite good care. Why is it when an lawer makes a mistake, there is little or no chance for reprocussion. We had a will made out, simple thing correct ? Because of miss use of wording , it could have been a disaster. Yet, all that was said was , Oh , we're sorry. If that would have been a Dr. all he** would have broke loose. It was bad enough that if we would have passed our children would have went to children services. So we payed to have it rewritten. They wouldn't cover the cost of another lawer rewritting it, we certainly wern't going back to them. We summed it up as , just things that happen in life and some times it really sucks or the potential to suck. That example is minor, but I've heard of worse things. There are many times that I think we should look at several areas of American society, first we need to look at the integrity of lawers as well as the integrity of the media. They are so good at reporting how bad everyone else is, they have people condemed before a trial yet, they seem to be very protective of their own.
    Last edit by lauralassie on Feb 10, '07
  13. by   canoehead
    I think it would be reasonable to seek medical expenses, but NOT a multimillion suit. An error was made, you get back what you lost, it's over. Perhaps you could approach the hospital this way. Don't get swayed by lawyers with dollar signs in their eyes, they looking out for their interests, not yours.
  14. by   rn undisclosed name
    I think it's unfair for the patient to have to pay the cost. If they don't have insurance (or inadequate insurance) it's a hardship just to pay the bill let alone $$$ in addition to the actual procedure.

    If you take your car in for repair and they accidentally fix something else - who pays?
    If you're having work done on your house and they make a hole in the wrong wall - who pays?
    There have been cases where the correct procedure was performed on the opposite side of the body - who pays for that? I know you're supposed to do a timeout BUT it has happened.

    There's so many what ifs in so many different areas (not necessarily medical). I realize there are ICs that patients sign but sometimes I think someone other than the patient should also accept some responsibility. And no I don't think suing is the answer.