Articles and Case Studies

All that glitters is not gold

All that glitters is not gold

The festive season can be a time to reflect and give thanks to people who have helped you throughout the year. For patients, this might include taking a bottle of wine to their trusted doctor, or a home-made cake for the staff to enjoy. But what if the gift is more than a token?

You are a cardiologist and you’ve been treating a lovely elderly woman for the past couple of months following a serious heart attack. It was touch and go, and because she suffered several complications, you have come to know the patient quite well. The staff always comment on how sweet and polite she is when she comes into the rooms. The patient has a daughter who drives her to her appointments, but she never comes in and you only met her once in hospital when her mother was first brought in.

The patient comes in for a consultation just before Christmas, and on her way into the consulting room she drops off a big box of chocolates for the reception staff. You thank her for the kind gesture and take her through for her appointment. Just as she is about to leave, she pulls out a second box and puts it on your desk.

“This is just a little thank you for saving my life. Merry Christmas to you and your family.”

You thank her very much and put it aside until the end of the day. You remove the wrapping and open the box to find a beautiful vase inside. The vase looks perfect in your bookcase, so you dispose of the wrapping and reflect on how thoughtful the patient is to choose such a beautiful gift.

You are quite surprised when you receive a very nasty letter in the post a couple of weeks later. The letter is from the patient’s daughter, and she accuses you of taking advantage of her elderly mother by fleecing her of a valuable vase. She tells you that the vase her mother brought in as a Christmas gift is a gold leaf Lalique Merles Et Raisins vase valued at over $9,000.

You are completely shocked – firstly at the value of the gift, and secondly at the suggestion you were trying to fleece an elderly patient.

Medico-legal issues

It is not always easy to judge the value of a gift you receive from a patient (think 1951 Grange vs 2021 Brown Brothers) but you should do your best to make inquiries because accepting a gift which is of greater value than just a token of appreciation can have unexpected consequences, including disciplinary action.

Complaints and Adverse Events, Cardiology


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