The “typical” case of medical malpractice (at least in the minds of most community members) is usually a doctor in a hospital who commits some overt error--surgical errors, misdiagnosis, medication problem, etc. However, we often point out how many other types of healthcare providers can also commit malpractice and the form of the errors can be varied.
That principle is perhaps best epitomized by a story making headlines again involving a dentist whose carelessness may have caused a hundred patients to contact various versions of hepatitis.
The situation first came to light earlier this year. According to published reports, starting in 2007 and for the next several years, the dentist ran a clinic that engaged in such horrific sanitary practices that over 7,000 patients were exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and even HIV. Thus far, at least 97 patients have tested positive--89 with hepatitis C, five with hepatitis B, and 4 with HIV. Almost no one possibly considers that they may contract some serious viral infection as a result of a standard dental visit. Yet, if the medical team on whom you rely are chronically careless, then anything goes.
All told, the doctor faces dozens of citations and allegations from patients on the state Board of Dentistry. Many of the hepatitis and HIV infections were caused by improper sterilization, leaving vials open, and storing dental equipment in unclean environments. Beyond the clear sanitation problems, investigators found that the medical professional simply ignored many other standard safety practices and rules. For example, he did not properly display his licenses, did not keep proper records of drug dispensations, and allowed dental assistants to perform work to which they are not legally allowed.
In the aftermath of the allegations, many officials were outraged and considered bringing criminal charges against the doctor. In April, the head of the state’s dentistry board indicated a desire to pursue criminal charges against the doctor (an oral surgeon who specialized in dentures). A complaint was filed which referred to the doctor as a “menace to society.” Thus far, it does not seem that actual criminal charges having been filed, even though though the director of the medical board met with the local prosecutor’s offices.
Amazingly, even after all of this, recently the dentist spoke out and asked for his license to practice back. As discussed in a News 9 story recently these latest actions by doctor are some of the first statements he’s made since the charges against him.
Several patients have spoken out since then. One explained the feelings of learning about her predicament, “"I remember everyday waiting to get my letter, my results back after I got tested. I thought about those 20, 30 people that I sat in that room with. I thought, ‘Are they going through the same thing I am? What if their results are positive?'"
She went on to voice amazement that, even after all of the damage caused, that the doctor would even attempt to re-open his clinic and treat patients again.
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