Published On: Sat, Mar 24th, 2012

Surgeon’s low-cost offer doesn’t cut it with woman who needs operation

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By: Mayor Bernard Featherman

There is an old saying: “You get what you pay for.” But is it true?  Maybe so, maybe not.

My friend, a medical surgeon, told me a story that illustrates that point.  A family doctor who sent him a lot of referrals phoned to ask for a special favor. One of his long-term patients, an elderly woman who was financially indigent, needed a double hernia operation immediately.  The family physician asked my friend to reduce his fee to the lowest possible charge for the woman’s operation in order to help her.

My surgeon friend consented to charge a token amount of only $75 for the operation, as his minimum fee was normally $750.

The female patient was given the surgeon’s phone number to discuss details of the operation.  In the course of conversation, the $75 fee was given.  The patient told the surgeon she would call him back, but after a week had passed, no word was received.

The surgeon called the family physician to find out what had happened to the woman, as her medical condition seemed life-threatening.

The family doctor checked and found out that the woman was recuperating in a local hospital from a successful hernia operation by another surgeon.

“Why didn’t you use the surgeon I recommended?” asked the family doctor. She replied, “Because his fee was so cheap, I thought his work must be of the same caliber.” So she paid $750 to a different surgeon for the operation.  How unfortunate for her, but a lesson was learned.

This story is truly classic. Most of us feel we get only what we pay for.  Something really cheap in our mind is worth just that, in value received.  In the private sector, it is a given that businesses have to make a profit, in order to stay in business to serve their customers.  They also need to let people know that price isn’t everything when it comes to their services or goods.

The family doctor asked for a personal favor to help his patient in financial need. He should have told the patient what he intended to do on her behalf.

In turn, the surgeon should have expressed what he would charge as a special courtesy to the woman because of her financial situation.

Neither said what they would do in this situation.

Municipal government officials need to be transparent, clear and ethical so citizens will understand why and how services are delivered by their local government agencies.  This is not only due to the Florida Sunshine Law but also because in order to properly serve the community, elected officials must explain all of the details under consideration.

So, in life as well as in business or in government, if something is too cheap, it doesn’t seem like a bargain, even if it is – unless the circumstances are fully explained.

What do you think?