Girardi | Keese

Dental Malpractice Scare May Expand As Thousands Seek HIV Tests

It has been less than a week since state and federal officials announced the disturbing results of an inspection at an Oklahoma dental practice. The aftermath of this announcement should be a strong reminder to dentists in California and around the nation - patient safety requires careful sterilization practices.

After an inspection revealed a number of health and safety violations on the part of a dentist and his staff members, government agencies warned the dentist's 7,000 patients to seek blood tests. All 7,000 people are at risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as a result of the dentist's flawed sterilization practices. As of midweek, almost 1,500 patients had already undergone tests. 

This kind of incident should not occur. The medical profession has known about the dangers posed by bacteria and viral infections for centuries. Numerous government rules and regulations mandate safe practices to prevent these infections from harming the patients who entrust their safety to dentists, doctors and other medical professionals.

When a mistake like this does occur, there is almost no argument about whether the doctor or dentist is at fault. All professionals know about these risks and are required to take steps to prevent harms from occurring. In other words, this kind of error is practically textbook medical malpractice.

Source: Washington Post, "Okla. may expand testing if dentist spread hepatitis or HIV through Tulsa-area clinics," Associated Press, Apr. 4, 2013

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