Parched, Nevada - With a clumsily taped up and still oozing head wound, George Hardup of Las Vegas has pointed an accusatory finger at neurologist and all around generalized head and brain surgeon, Mr. Dr. Ronnie Elmstein, M.D. Ph.D, saying Dr. Elmstein offered him a "special cut rate deal" on his brain surgery.
"He said I'd get 50% off if I helped hand him instruments and do a bit of cutting and hold a few special brain lights for him and stuff. I'm a draftsman by trade, so I figured I could do it. With the high cost of medical care in the U.S. I jumped at the chance to get my brain operated on for half-off. Instead of costing me $20 million, the bill was only going to be $10 million. That's about average for surgery here in the U.S. if you're uninsured like me. It's still hella expensive, but every little bit helps."
Confident and upbeat on surgery day, George felt okay about being a co-surgeon on his own head. "My brain is precious to me, yes. But my bank account matters a lot more. I have a kid to get through college. I really had no choice."
Part way through, things went terribly wrong. "Dr. Elmstein handed me the wrong size scalpel , my hand slipped, and I cut a big hunk off of something. I don't know what got cut, but I've lost my sense of smell. And I sure as hell have lost my sense of humor, too!"
The case is currently wending its way through the court system. When confronted in the parking garage of the A.B.C. Medical Center, Dr. Elmstein said, "Look, I gave George a really good deal on his brain surgery. Between him and me, we got most of the nasty ooky stuff out of his skull. I gave up a huge amount of my usual and customary fees for such complex surgery. You don't find guys like me anymore in the medical profession. I'm the victim here, not George."
Patient advocates worry that this may only be the tip of the surgical iceberg. George says, "There's a case out in Connecticut where a guy was offered a "do it yourself discount" on his open heart surgery. I don't know how that turned out, but it can't have been good. "