I don’t think I should pay

October 10, 2006 - 6:30 pm 5 Comments

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my bad experience with a urologist when I had kidney stones. I got a call from them today saying that I owe a balance of around $63 dollars. I was all set to just pay it and get it behind me, but something deep inside wouldn’t let me. I told the billing office that I was very unhappy with my treatment, and she asked me to send in a letter about it. This is what I wrote:

To whom it may concern:

I owe a balance to Urology Team for my office visit in late June. I’m having some real problems paying the bill, since my visit there was fraught with difficulties. At the request of the billing office, I’m sending you this letter to inform you about the circumstances surrounding my care.

I went to see Dr. Houser on Monday, June 26, 2006, after having gone to the ER on the previous Friday night for kidney stone pain. They originally recommended another doctor to me, but Dr. Houser had availability earlier in the week, and I was still in a good amount of pain, so I chose to go with her.

My husband dropped me off at the office for my 1:40 appointment and he left with our young daughter, who wouldn’t have been able to sit still at the doctor’s for long. When I was called back to an examining room, Dr. Houser seemed frustrated with the fact that I did not bring the CT scan films with me, but only the interpretation. She said I would have to go down the road for an X-ray, which was a problem, since my husband had taken the car. When I explained that to Dr. Houser, she said, “Look, I’m just trying to save you time here so we can get this taken care of today.”

After I called my husband to take me to the X-ray lab and came back, before I had gotten called back to the examining room to see Dr. Houser, a nurse came out and told me that I was scheduled for lithotripsy the next morning – before the doctor had even looked at my films. When I was called back to the room, the doctor looked at the X-ray and said she wanted to send a camera into my bladder. I wasn’t informed that it would be a painful procedure, nor did anyone speak with me about any consequences. I was merely told to disrobe and climb into the stirrups. I was uncomfortable and disoriented by the kidney stone pain at the time, but if I had been thinking clearly, I certainly would have demanded more information about what was going on. As it was, I was unclothed and in the stirrups when the nurse put a form in front of me and told me to sign. It was then that I saw I would have a cystoscopy, but I didn’t feel like I had time to read the form thoroughly, having been told to “Sign here” several times as I was trying to read. The nurse left and I then proceeded to wait, alone, in the room for 20 minutes, still in the stirrups. Dr. Houser came back in, said she needed a nurse for assistance, uncovered me, and left me alone in the room again for more than 10 additional minutes.

After the doctor and nurse finally came back in and performed the procedure, which was incredibly painful and had me in tears, all she would say was that it gave her some information she needed to know – information which she never shared with me. She tossed me a pamphlet about lithotripsy and said that tomorrow was her day in the O.R. and that if we pushed off the procedure, it would eat into her long weekend. I asked if the stone was small enough to pass on its own and she said that the triangular ones “never do.” Then she left the room, promising to return shortly, and I was once again alone in the room, now crying from pain. There was a sanitary napkin on top of my clothing, but nobody had mentioned that I needed to use it.

I waited in that room for another half an hour, alone and still confused, for the doctor to come back. As I was there, I got a call on my cell phone from the surgery center asking if I was coming in for lithotripsy the next day. I told them I didn’t know. Eventually I poked my head out of the door and looked for someone to let me know what was going on. The nurse said the doctor would be out “shortly” – the same thing I had been hearing for the previous 3 hours. At that point I decided I had had enough, gathered my things, and left, still crying. One of Dr. Houser’s partners saw me leave and never said a word to me. I left the office at approximately 4:40, more confused and in more pain than when I walked in three hours before.

A couple of weeks ago I received a mailer from Dr. Houser inviting me to take part in a medical study about female arousal she was doing. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything less arousing than being put through an incredible amount of pain and receiving no answers from it.

I believe in paying for services rendered, but the reason people go to see a doctor is because doctors have special training and are able to explain to patients what is wrong with them while they treat the ailment. An integral part of a physician’s practice involves the sharing of information, and this is precisely what I did NOT get from Dr. Houser. I felt like meat on an assembly line: dehumanized, treated without compassion, and with no agency in the process at all; I felt completely railroaded into having the cystoscopy and pressured into a lithotripsy without any information other than a pamphlet about it. I have a very hard time writing out a check for the service that I don’t feel I received. In fact, if I hadn’t been so disoriented from the kidney stone, I would have filed a complaint about my treatment.

For the record, that stone passed without intervention; the cystoscopy and lithotripsy were wholly unnecessary.

My experience with Dr. Houser made me approach my new urologist with a high amount of trepidation. Luckily, he was everything that I would hope for in a physician: compassionate, forthcoming, eager to explain everything, and offering a real feeling that I was involved in my care. I feel very fortunate to have found such a good doctor, and only wish that I had indeed originally taken that later appointment and never seen Dr. Houser at all; in fact, for all the good she did me, I might as well have never seen her.

Thank you for your understanding,

5 Responses to “I don’t think I should pay”

  1. Heather Says:

    Well said. I’m sorry your experience was so awful – good for you for putting it in writing.

  2. Richard A Schoor MD Says:

    You certainly were put through the ringer and I can understand your unwillingness to pay. Congratulations on passing your stone spontaneously, as they often do.

  3. miss ewe Says:

    That’s a horrible story! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. For every fantastic doctor out there, there seem to be an abundance of horrible ones who don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be ill and afraid without any information. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

  4. Karlana Says:

    Sounds like something I would write. Hey, they should be glad it is done through a letter versus a very irrate lady in their face. I can feel the pain in your letter. What is the outcome of all this? Have you gotten any word yet?

  5. addlepated Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments, all. I haven’t heard anything back from the doctor’s office either way yet, but I imagine that they’d need time to digest the long letter and come to a decision. Bureaucracies never work quickly.