I watched a 60 Minutes segment last month that talked about some doctors making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of selling cancer drugs at huge mark ups. It’s pretty revolting as it puts a ton of patients in to bankruptcy.
There is a similar issue going on with orthopedic surgeons in that many of them make their money off of performing independent medical examinations (IME’s). A couple years ago I was at a deposition of a doctor who does lot of IME’s and he testified that he earned over $300,000.00 a year from those exams and from getting paid to testify about those exams. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to get around $1,000.00 for an exam and writing a report and then double that to testify. Why they get paid to testify is beyond me other than that they probably wouldn’t do the IME in the first place. Mind you that a deposition typically lasts sixty to ninety minutes and some doctors do two of those a day. It’s quite a living.
One doctor who I would tell any of my clients or callers to run from sent me a “happy hour” invitation to have cocktails with him, his partners and any lawyer who wants to come. Usually doctors put on some medical seminar to attract lawyers, but this was just two plus hours of booze at a hip place downtown.
I’m not sure if this doctor’s angle was to get lawyers to send their clients to him (his nickname is the butcher so you can imagine the attorneys who would suggest seeing him for a back problem) or if he wants IME business. While IME’s are typically done by the insurance company, their are some lawyers for workers who use doctors as their own hired guns instead of having to rely on the treating doctor to give a favorable opinion or good testimony.
The good of this approach is that you know what the doctor will say. The bad is that they look like a whore and it raises questions as to why the treating doctor isn’t testifying. I never do it or recommend it, but some firms make it a regular practice. Of course the money these docs charge comes out of your settlement in the end so the lawyers are spending your money in a way that might not help your case.
But to me, I’m bothered by the appearance of going out to an event like this from a doctor who doesn’t know me. Somehow they got my personal e-mail and sent me an invite. If they want to mail me something about an educational event that’s one thing, but this offended me. Perhaps it’s because of the horror stories I’ve heard about this surgeon, but it’s also the perception that an attorney would sell out their clients for a few drinks.
Most of the lawyers I know wouldn’t but the truth is there are some who would. And that’s pathetic.