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Unwanted attention

20 July 2023

A dentist is the subject of unwanted attention from a patient.

Dr E was nearing the completion of her first year in private practice year and had just two weeks left to work before setting off on a well-deserved break to Mauritius with her family. 

At lunchtime, she was approached by the practice manager who was carrying a bunch of flowers and a letter from an admiring patient, Mr F. The contents of the letter were clear about Mr F’s feelings towards Dr E and included an invitation to take her out for dinner. 

The letter left Dr E feeling a bit uncomfortable as the attention was both uninvited and unwanted. 

Dr E contacts Dental Protection

Dr E contacted Dental Protection for advice and spoke to an experienced case manager who listened to Dr E’s concerns. It was agreed that Dr E would send a copy of the letter to Dental Protection for advice. 

Dr E’s case was reviewed by a dentolegal consultant who was then able to advise her on how best to manage the situation and specifically how to respond to Mr F. Dental Protection provided a draft letter for Dr E to consider using as her response in which it was made clear that the interest was unwanted, and that Dr E could only provide treatment where the boundaries of the professional relationship were clear. In this case Mr F had undermined the way the relationship must operate by his actions. The letter outlined that Dr E felt that it would be in Mr F’s best interests to be seen by another colleague at the practice where professional boundaries in .would not be compromised. 

Mr F responded soon after to apologise and accepted the offer of having his care transferred to another dentist at the practice.

Learning points

Receiving gifts and declarations of a personal nature can put dentists of any age and experience into a compromising position, and blurs the boundaries of professionalism in all situations. 

It is best to contact Dental Protection as soon as possible in order to obtain professional advice and reassurance should this or a similar situation arise for any of our members. It can be difficult to know how patients will react to having their advances turned down and a professional and proportionate response is often the most productive way of achieving a sensible solution for everyone impacted by the unwelcome conduct.