Do we pay our whole vet bill?
November 30, 2009 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Our dog died at the vets office after surgery, is it reasonable for us to ask for a refund?

Nearly 10 year old dog, had foreign objects in his stomach, quit eating due to stomach discomfort. the vet surgically removed it but had to also go into his intestine to get the whole thing out. After surgery we got a call saying he was doing well. The next morning we got a call saying he had died. He developed a hole in his intestines near where they removed the stuff. The vet was sure this was not there when he closed him up.

I realize that this was an old dog and that every surgery has risks. I also realize that the vets time is valuable and he needs to make money to run his business. He also spent 3 days there getting tests and IV fluids and other care that we have already paid for.

My boyfriend paid upfront for this procedure. We will be going back to the vet later this week to pick up his ashes and collar. Are we unreasonable to ask to have some of the (>$1500) surgery bill refunded? Does anyone have any experience with something like this?
posted by missanissa to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
Yes, that's unreasonable. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure, and you agreed to accept those risks when you agreed to surgery. If you think there was malpractice, consider suing for malpractice (doesn't sound like there was). But no, you should not request a full or partial refund.
posted by amro at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2009 [27 favorites]

What amro said.
posted by greta simone at 1:53 PM on November 30, 2009

I've never heard of a "refund", short of negligence or malpractice on the part of the practitioner. People surgeons also get paid for their time, expertise, overhead, and a good-faith effort--regardless of outcome.
posted by availablelight at 1:53 PM on November 30, 2009

Thirded. You paid for the service, but not with any guarantee of the end result. The vet held up their end of the bargain, it's time to hold up yours.
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2009

P.S. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by availablelight at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2009

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your pet. It's always sad when an animal dies, and having spent so much money to try to help only to have it pass anyway adds to the sting.

However, amro is completely correct. There are risks associated with medical intervention, especially surgery, and you accepted those risks. The fact that the dog died does not negate the years of training and experience the vet and assistants brought to bear in trying to save its life.

If you think it's malpractice - that's totally different.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a puppy die at the vet's office after her spay (she had to stay an extra night because I was in a traffic accident.) She tore open her stitches and died overnight.

I didn't ask for a refund (I was too distraught even to think about it, at the time, since I was stuck right in the middle of the Worst Week Ever) and none was offered. I'm really not sure if I should have or not. I guess I'm just popping in to say "I didn't ask." Of course the bill for Nina's spay wasn't quite as bad as $1500. Maybe see about a partial refund? I don't know. My instinct is not to ask, but I'm passive like that.
posted by Neofelis at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2009

My experience that you can usually just talk to vets about payment options -- they're not beholden to the same kind of insurance bureaucracy as humans. I wouldn't frame it as "give me my money back because we didn't get the outcome we wanted."

More like, we didn't plan for this, we didn't think we'd end up here, can we talk about these costs, and where the vet has actually paid out to external resources (labs, etc), and perhaps delay costs, or work out a payment plan for any remaining unpaid bills, etc. If you get a new dog, perhaps there's a future credit he can offer, etc.

That said, it is possible that he will stonewall you, just on general principles -- there's a reason vets ask for money up front, after all.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:58 PM on November 30, 2009

I'm really sorry for your loss. Losing a pet can be really hard. However, I do feel it is unreasonable to ask for a refund and I'm not sure what your rationale is for doing so. I would try to separate the 'business' portion from the personal side of things. Unless there is some sort of business related reason that you can reasonably expect a refund (they overcharged you, hidden costs, etc.) there doesn't seem to be a point in asking (IMHO), and it could potentially make a sad situation even more difficult and complicated for all involved. It puts everyone in an socially and ethically awkward position that doesn't really need to be happening right now.

Any monetary compensation is not going to make you or anybody else feel better about this. The vets feel bad enough too. And sometimes things just don't work out financially. Think about this when something unexpected works out in your favor later, sans negotiation or awkwardness. It will be worth it.

Again, I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2009

I'm going to disagree, and say that you can go ahead and ask very nicely for a courtesy reduction of the bill. That is not to say that you are entitled to one, but if the surgery was a big financial outlay for your family I am a "no harm in asking" person. But, you must do it very kindly and be willing to accept the "no" you may get as an answer.

Not for a second to impugn your vet's ethics or abilities, but I always have this concern where if we (the editorial 'we') think it is likely that our pets won't survive surgery, we might not have done it, and that vets encourage us to treat animals like people in getting all these tests and procedures done. Having had one vet suggest knee replacement surgery for my elderly chihuahua, I wonder sometimes whether expensive medical procedures for animals are called for quite as often as they are performed. Again, I am not trying to malign your vet at all, but I always have this worry with veterinary surgeries.

That said, you agreed to the surgery, and so you do obviously need to pay for it. But no harm in asking for a courtesy/holidays/pet bereavement or similar discount.
posted by bunnycup at 2:02 PM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sorry about the loss of your dog.

I would talk with the folks at the vet's about whether charges for services your dog didn't wind up being able to use (post-operative care, dressing changes, etc.) were included in the sum that has already been paid; having the total adjusted in light of the outcome would be reasonable in that light.

That's not "getting a refund," it's having a bill adjusted, which is standard practice for animal hospitals and people hospitals.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2009 [21 favorites]

Sorry about your dog -- losing a loved pet is always hard, regardless of the circumstances.

But no, I'm sorry -- you can ask for help with the payment schedule of course, but asking for a refund is not the way this is done. If vets had to guarantee success of every operation they did before got paid, well... there wouldn't be a lot of vets out there performing surgeries (at a quasi-reasonable cost), would there? Malpractice is another thing altogether, but if this is not the case, then this is the risk you willingly took when you agreed to the surgery. Sorry.
posted by cgg at 2:13 PM on November 30, 2009

Just happened to a friend of mine. Her dog also died the morning after intestinal surgery, while still recuperating at the vet's. A few days later she did politely ask for a reduction of the bill, and they made an offer that was several hundred dollars less. She took it without arguing further.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2009

I think this question has a clear and easy answer. You are not entitled to a reduction of your vet bill and, if the vet requires the entire payment, you are morally obliged to provide it. But there's nothing stopping you from asking for a reduction. Heck, there's nothing stopping you from asking for a reduction on any bill from anyone at any time. Maybe they'll agree. So you're unreasonable to demand to pay less, but simply asking nicely isn't problematic.

Hell, I wish I had enough confidence and gumption to ask for a lower price on tons of things. Apparently you can often get it.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on November 30, 2009

I would talk with the folks at the vet's about whether charges for services your dog didn't wind up being able to use (post-operative care, dressing changes, etc.) were included in the sum that has already been paid

That's the best idea I've seen here.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm grateful for my "big city vet with small-town ideals". When I had to put my St. Bernard, Max, to sleep a year and a half ago, I was dealing with my wife being in the hospital at the same time and was pretty distraught. The vet came to me after everything was said and done and said "You take care of yourself and your wife; don't worry about the bill for this right now. Call me in a couple of weeks when things are better and we'll settle it then."

It was a little thing for an established long-time customer - but it helped so much. The world needs more people like that.
posted by mrbill at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

You should absolutely discuss whether there were things you paid for that were not used, since you prepaid the surgery. That may have included post-op antibiotics and any other prescriptions you would have brought home.

I'm so sorry about your dog.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:39 PM on November 30, 2009

Thanks all for the quick answers. We are still probably in too much shock to think about this rationally, so it's really helpful to hear everyone's opinions. It didn't occur to me that we would have had post-op care included in the bill we already paid. We'll maybe just ask to have that refunded or credited to the cost of cremating him.
posted by missanissa at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2009

I'm so sorry your dog didn't make it. My cat just had surgery this morning, and last night, I had to sign a release acknowledging the risks of surgery and pay a 50% deposit on their estimate for the surgery costs. I am sure that if my cat hadn't survived surgery, the vet would have only charged me for the actual costs of surgery, not the recovery and medication post-surgery. It's worthwhile to talk with your vet or his staff about that.

There is, however, usually a fee for cremating and retaining your pet's ashes. Please be prepared for that if you aren't already aware.
posted by gladly at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2009

It seems to me one can ask for a refund for "services not provided" if one would also be comfortable having a vet increase a bill for "problems (services) not anticipated". A deal is a deal and both you and the vet entered this with a variety of unknowns and associated risks. Sure you can ask, but if the vet agrees to reduce the bill it is either out of sympathy for you are an exercise in customer relations.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, please be considerate in how you approach them with this request. Checking what costs for post-op stuff can be refunded is one thing but asking for a discount due to a less-than-successful surgery is another.

Either way you need to be delicate so as not to damage the relationship if you plan on taking any future pets there.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:46 PM on November 30, 2009

« Older I bit off more than I can chew. Anyone want a bite...   |   My iBook G4 won't start. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.