Legal Question in Health Care Law in Oregon

Can a dentist charge for anesthesia if they do not perform the procedure?

My wife went in for oral surgey, and needed to be anestisized for the procedure. The dental assistant was unable to get an IV started, so they tried oral medication and that didn't work either (they could not knock her out, and hit the limit for what they could safely administer). They said they would not be able to perform the procedure and suggested we find another dentist. I had paid my portion of the bill on the way in, so they returned my check on the spot. Now they are sending me a bill for anesthesia services, room prep and cleanup. This seems very wrong to me. I have written to the denist, but they insist I still owe them money. Morally, I do not feel obligated to pay for non-service. Am I legally obligated to pay? They tried to bill my insurance but they denied the claim, I assume for the same reason (why pay when no service was performed?). Thank you in advance.

Asked on 10/28/04, 5:49 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Kenneth Burgess Law Office of Kenneth L. Burges
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Re: Can a dentist charge for anesthesia if they do not perform the procedure?

As a general rule, health care providers are not allowed to bill patients for services which are not performed, or are not performed consistent with the applicable standard of care. To fully answer your question, I would need to know the state where the services were to be performed, more information regarding why the proposed anesthesia was not ultimately administered and the extent to which this dentist should have foreseen this possibility, and as much of the information as possible (oral or written) provided to you/your wife before the scheduled procedure in any "informed consent" meeting or document. A quick review of this information and applicable state law in your state would allow an attorney to answer your question with confidence, although I would anticipate that this dentist would NOT be allowed to charge you for this services, assuming the failure to perform it was not somehow attributable to your wife, and this would likely be the case whether your wife was a private pay, commercial insurance, MediCare or Medicaid patient. Let me know if you'd like us to take a closer look at this issue.

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11/01/04, 5:58 am

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