|The $400-an-hour pain doctor|
Readers of this news blog know that I'm a cancer patient and global patient advocate and that I don't take crap from corporations, doctors and others who gouge and take advantage of cancer patients and others who are sick and/or in pain. Readers of this blog also know that I've been in chronic, massive pain for several years.
On that note, I called a doctor in San Diego today who specializes in pain. Her office is at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. She is Dr. Nancy Sajben. I found her by simply Googling "San Diego" and "pain."
She calls herself a "pain management specialist." At Scripps, she sees cancer patients and others who have chronic pain. She says she can treat the difficult cases. I was eager to tell her a bit about my case and see if she could help me and what she has done for others.
To my surprise, she answered the phone directly. It was a cell phone. She was in her car, I could hear the traffic. I briefly told her my cancer story and that I had chronic pain, and that I was a journalist.
She listened, then said she could help me. For $400 an hour. Yes, $400 an hour. She added that she accepts no insurance -- at least not a PPO, or an HMO, which is what I told her I have.
After my momentary shock, I told her that charging cancer patients in chronic pain -- or anyone for that matter -- $400 an hour was absolutely outrageous. I said her prices were prohibitively, insanely high.
I told her that as a working journalist and family man, I don't have that kind of money. I basically told her off. She has clearly heard this beef before. She calmly but smugly told me that she used to be poor. She said she helps people. She said she studied for many years.
I said that even if all that is true, she only helps wealthy folks who can afford $400 an hour. Others are left out in the cold. Is that what she was taught during her many years of training?
I told her how I felt. Now I'm asking you: please contact this woman and tell her to stop charging so much money to cancer patients and others who are in pain and desperate for help. Her number is 858-622-0500.
Hell, she could charge half of that, even a quarter of that, and still make a very good living. This woman has no shame, no scruples, no compassion and no clue. Hippocratic Oath? What's that?
And please also join me in telling Scripps, which rightly touts the many positive things it does for cancer patients, to take more responsibility for the doctors they house in their own hospitals.
When I contacted the public relations staff at Scripps and told them about my exchange with Sajben, this is what one of their representatives said to me:
"This [Sajben] is an independent doctor who has her office on the Scripps Memorial Hospital campus (as do a lot of doctors), as well as having privileges at Scripps La Jolla (as do a lot of doctors). She’s not a 'Scripps doctor' in the sense that she’s not part of our Medical Foundation. I’m sorry you’re in pain and hope you find the help you need."
I then respectfully asked the PR person if Scripps was really comfortable being associated with someone who charges this much to ailing cancer patients, and she said, "She is not our physician. She leases space on our property."
I then respectfully pointed out to her that Sajben's care is administered inside a Scripps hospital and that this is a tacit (at the very least) endorsement of her care.
She responded, "She's in private practice."
Then, finally, she said, "I understand your frustration. It’s not an issue Scripps can speak to because we don’t have any influence over what an independent doctor (whether leasing space in a medical office building on our campus or elsewhere) charges in their private practice."
OK, Scripps. We get it. You take no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that this woman is working in your hospital and paying rent to you, and you have no comment or judgement whatsoever on what this woman is doing while on your grounds.
She is not an official Scripps physician. Understood. But do patients who see her and see that she is located at Scripps really make that distinction? Of course not. Sajben is located at Scripps and she says so on her website. She administers her care at a Scripps hospital.
Is Scripps that amoral? Does the hospital really have no comment or opinion on the fact that a doctor working in its hospital charges $400 an hour to suffering cancer patients who are in chronic pain?
By the way, Scripps apparently also accepts patients from Sajben.
Scripps can't set her prices, of course, because while what she charges is surely recognized to anyone with any common decency as immoral and unethical, it is not illegal. And she is technically not a Scripps employee. But they can certainly choose not to let her do business in their hospital.