Monday, June 13, 2011

A Rock and A Hard Place

I received a call the other day from another dentist. He had a small dilemma, and he asked me my thoughts. Here we go!

Let's call him Dr. Straight Teeth (ST). He wanted to know how I felt about a situation. He had referred a patient to another dentist to have #5 and #13 removed for spacing issues and midline symmetry correction. His written referral and extraction prescription were clear and correct. You can see where this is going, right? The patient came back to Dr. ST's office, and #5 and #12 had been extracted. Oops. This is not the end of the world, it was just going to extend the treatment time and change the treatment plan some, but it is a mistake that Dr. ST could reasonably work with.

He wanted to know what I would do. I have always felt these situations, however uncomfortable, must be handled upfront, immediately, and honestly. I leaned that approach from my parents, school and the military. I told him that I felt he was obligated to inform the doctor, the patient and the parents of what had occurred and how it would change the treatment. Of course, document this in the chart, along with all discussions that occurr with all parties. In my opinion, he would be an accessory to the mistake by trying to cover it up even though the patient would probably be clueless. This, to me, seems like an easy decision to make even though it is difficult to follow through on.

I am sure he is a little concerned about upsetting the other dentist and losing a referral source. I know that if I was the dentist that made the mistake, I would be apologizing up and down to the patient and the referring dentist for my oversight. Whenever I get extraction prescriptions, I double-check and usually even call if it is for ortho and the tooth is otherwise in perfect condition. Unfortunately, you hear about the horror stories of surgeons amputating the wrong leg or arm. This is bad, but certainly not on the same level as that. I try to remember a saying that talks about leadership; it can also translate to morals and ethics. It goes something like this:

"Leadership is not what you do when everyone is watching, but what you do when no one is watching."

What are your thoughts? Is this the best way to handle the situation?

Have a good week.



mammag said...

dr john, i think your answer to your friend was right on target. you are a good friend and mentor for being so honest and trustworthy. these patients might be upset at first, but being that you will able to have good results and you were honist will allow them to trust you whole hardedly in the future. john, you are my son with whom i am well

gatordmd said...


A couple of things....
First you are embarrassing me. All my friends are reading this.

Second, I appreciate your unconditional love for me.

I didn't write this post.
See at the beginning of each blog there is a picture of a person on the left. That is the one who writes the blog for that day.
And he signed it JJ.

I love you too
Your loving son,

navygatordmd said...

Thanks ma! I appreciate your support in my advice, Luv ya as well! Be sure to add me to your X-mas list.

Have a great day!


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