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Don’t make the patient’s decisions

14 July 2014
Even if you’re sure you’ve given your patient all the options for treatment, without the records to back you up, trouble can ensue...

A patient sued their dentist following the extraction of tooth 46 and the provision of a partial acrylic denture. This action was instigated following a visit to another dentist who questioned the need for the removal of one tooth in an otherwise intact arch.

The patient, with the assistance of the second dentist, complained and sought compensation on the basis that she had not been offered any alternatives, i.e. endodontic treatment or otherwise. The original dentist was an experienced and conscientious clinician who genuinely felt that he had provided appropriate treatment.

There were unfortunately no proper records of the discussions with the patient. The case was settled on the basis that the patient had not been given any alternative options to an extraction and the dentist had effectively taken the decision for the patient.

Learning point:
Resist the temptation to take a paternalistic approach to dental care. The role of the dentist is to advise and to provide information enabling a patient to make his/her own decisions.
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These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits Dental Protection members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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