The $1,000 Vs. the $2,100 Veterinary Surgery: Which Would You Choose?
Say your dog has "X" orthopedic disease. You see two veterinarians before you decide what you’ll do about it. Both recommend a surgical approach. You’re not well versed in these issues and both docs seem to suit you fine, so you choose the less expensive route.
All well and good, but let’s add in these facts:
1. Your veterinarian referred you to the first, more expensive vet; an acquaintance to the second.
2. The expensive vet is a board certified specialist; the second, a generalist with no extra credentials.
3. The expensive vet wants to charge you $2,100 for the surgery to repair the "X" issue. The other guy says $1,000, nuts to bolts.
Less than half? You do the math. This is exactly the scenario that one of my clients described to me earlier this week. He chose the inexpensive "surgeon" his "friend" had recommended, and now, three months later, his dog still limps on the same leg — badly. And guess what? He’s been told it’s a "new" problem. One which will cost another $1,000 to repair.
Throughout the narration of these recent events, my internal wheels were spinning. If I hadn’t already been familiar with the unethical antics of the veterinarian in question, I might have felt less provoked. But as it was, my level of moral indignation was high. Here’s what I was thinking:
What unbelievable BS! A "new" injury my a$$! Another poor surgical outcome given this vet’s poor qualifications is more like it. The dodge in responsibility just adds insult to injury — the dog’s, mostly.
There is no reasonable explanation for this new lameness. At best, this is a surgical "complication" that deserves to be treated (and priced) as such. At worst, it constitutes the very definition of medical malpractice and fraud: Operating below the standard of care and fraudulently parlaying said failing into another financial opportunity.
All of which I did not say.
So you tell me … What’s a well-meaning veterinarian supposed to do in this case? Should she:
a) Bite her tongue and hope the anger passes before she says something in a way that might be construed as less-than-professional?
b) Carefully explain the facts of the condition, the likelihood of post-operative "re-injury," and advise the client — clearly and without breach in decorum — to seek the advice of the first veterinarian (the specialist) yet again?
c) Speak her mind in more measured tones than her thoughts might indicate, with no prevarication whatsoever, with an assessment that the client got what he paid for? After all, did he really think the cheaper surgery might be equivalent? Moreover, she should clue her client into this reality: He’s been had.
So what’ll it be? A, b, or c?
Dr. Patty Khuly