Dentist facing discipline, but will he be charged criminally?
Health care professionals in Texas and around the country are expected to meet standards for care that keep their patients safe. The sheer amount of regulations that medical professionals such as doctors and dentists must abide by makes it hard to imagine that a wide-scale claim of incompetence and possible medical malpractice could occur with someone who had been seeing patients for decades.
However, a story out of Oklahoma shows that this concept, unfortunately, isn't always true. A dentist in Tulsa was being investigated for several violations by the state dentistry board, including improperly sterilizing instruments and using rusty tools. When one of the dentist's former patients apparently tested positive for HIV, officials suggested all of his patients be tested.
It turned out that the patient who came back with a positive HIV test actually did not have HIV -- but did have Hepatitis C, which is also something that could be contagious via unsanitary practices or dangerously unsterile tools.
The dentist has since surrendered his license. However, he practiced for nearly 40 years and had about 7,000 patients who could be at risk for infection. In addition to the unsanitary conditions, investigators also say that some of the dentist's assistants were performing tasks that are only allowed to be completed by licensed dentists, such as administering sedatives via an IV.
Officials say it is too soon to determine if the dentist will face any criminal charges as a result of the allegations; however, it would seem likely that he will face medical malpractice lawsuits brought by at least some of his patients.
Source: Associated Press, "Okla. board pushes for charges against dentist," Justin Juozapavicius, April 1, 2013