3 August 2010

Q. Can I withdraw from treating a patient?

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you may decide that you need to withdraw from a patient’s treatment, or suggest that they seek further treatment elsewhere. This has the potential to create a dangerous flash point and it needs to be sensitively managed.

Try never to lose your temper with a ‘challenging’ patient. Keep your cool and remain professional at all times, however testing it might be on occasions. If you are finding it difficult to treat the patient safely and to an acceptable standard, consider referring the patient to a suitably experienced colleague.

You must never part company with a patient in anger. If for any reason you do decide that you cannot continue treating the patient, make it clear that you are withdrawing from the treatment in the patient’s best interests, not your own. Make the necessary referral arrangements, keep the patient informed and resist the temptation to insert any ‘one liners’ in the correspondence or in the clinical records, or worse still in any direct communication you have with the patient.

Never give the impression that you are being arrogant, dismissive or petulant when deciding to end your relationship with a ‘challenging’ patient. A few ill-chosen words spoken in the heat of the moment can result in months or years of subsequent repercussions if you end up being sued or facing a complaint to the GDC or other agencies.

Members who would like to discuss a particular case in more detail should contact the dento-legal advisory team on 0845 609 4000.

Dental Protection Limited is registered in England (No. 2374160) and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Medical Protection Society Limited (MPS) which is registered in England (No.36142). Both companies use Dental Protection as a trading name and have their registered office at 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS.

Dental Protection Limited serves and supports the dental members of MPS with access to the full range of benefits of membership, which are all discretionary, and set out in MPS’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. MPS is not an insurance company. Dental Protection® is a registered trademark of MPS.

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