An executive who travels a lot experienced pain in his foot while in another city, and visited a podiatrist. He was charged $80. The office visit was $20, and injection was $20, and two X-rays were $40.

"Next week I'll be going to the West Coast for a month," the patient said to the podiatrist. "I'd like to take the X-rays with me so that if the pain recurs I won't have to shell out another $40." But the podiatrist refused. "The X-rays are mine," he said firmly. "I am required by law to keep them."

Oldtime District Liners may recall that we went through this issue with regard to medical and dental X-rays Spokesmen for the medical and dental societies told me that, technically, the patient pays for the doctor's opinion of the X-ray, not for the film itself. The film, they said, belongs to the doctor. But after a patient has paid for this X-rays, doctors and dentists are usually willing to forward both the film and a written opinion on it to any collegue who needs the material.

I called Dr. Jerome J.Mayer, president of the District of Columbia Podiatry Society, and asked him whether the same procedures are followed by podiatrists.

"Yes," he said. "It's true that the peice of film belongs to the podiatrist, but common courtesy impels us to forward it to a colleague on request. All we ask is that the film be returned to us later for our records.There's no law that says we have to retain X-rays in our records, but all of us do, for the patient's protection as well as our own."

What about the fees that were charged - were they high, low or average? Fees are a delicate subject but Dr. Mayer ventured this opinion: "I think your reader was probably charged higher fees than Blue Cross would pay, and I consider Blue Cross average." The lesson in all this is one most of us have encountered before: It is better to ask about fees in advance than to accept professional help first and then find out it costs more than we thought it would.