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Sedated is not the same as asleep

15 July 2014
Misunderstanding on the patient’s part can cause problems if they experience dissatisfaction with their treatment. Sometimes an apology is all that is necessary…

A very nervous new patient attended a practice and requested all his dental treatment should be provided while asleep. Under the local legal jurisdiction, it was illegal to provide general anaesthetic in a practice setting and so the dentist offered to provide the treatment under sedation, which was duly accepted by the patient.

The patient reacted badly and the session had to be abandoned. The patient was subsequently referred for a general anaesthetic in a hospital setting. The patient later wrote a letter of complaint to the dentist stating that he had been misled about receiving treatment under sedation in that he assumed he would be asleep during the treatment, which he clearly was not.

The dentist immediately replied to the patient with an apology for the misunderstanding that had occurred. The apology was accepted and the dentist heard nothing further.

Learning point:
A polite apology to a patient is not an admission of liability.
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