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Sunday, January 6, 2008

The blunderer must bear the cost: A drug error

When my husband developed a leg infection, his physician prescribed the wrong antibiotic. The insurance company, recognizing the mistake, refused to cover the prescription's $573 cost. But I had already filled it, and my husband had taken a dose. I think our doctor should reimburse us. (The correct treatment for this common infection was immediately prescribed by two other doctors.) My husband demurs. You?
-Name withheld, Los Angeles.

Answer by Randy Cohen, the NY Times Magazine Ethicist:

The doctor should take responsibility, including financial responsibility, for his error. This is not to demand omniscient physicians or mistake-proof medicine. Everyone is fallible on the job. But acknowledging human fallibility does not mean abandoning all professional standards. It this was, as it seems, a genuine blunder, then it is the blunderer who must bear its cost.

Update: Acknowledging his error, the doctor agreed to waive all future fees up to the amount of the erroneous prescription.

Advice to victims of a medical error: Insist that the doctor bear the cost of the error.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read an insurance company denial story.

Thanks to Randy Cohen for the source article in today's New York Times Magazine.

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