Because they are often the targets of frivolous lawsuits, it’s a well known fact that dentists should keep accurate and complete records on every patient they administer to, as well as documentation of each patient’s consent to treatment as well as their understanding of any proposed treatments.
Once a malpractice suit is filed, many dentists will have a hard time presenting a legal defense if these steps have not been followed. However, having dentist professional liability insurance, and some sound risk management planning in place, will aid dentists in preventing these types of scenarios from arising.
Patients are happier being in on decisions regarding their health
Dentists should include patients in the planning process. This usually will result in patients who will be less likely to instigate a malpractice action even when things go slightly awry. By informing their patients of the available treatments and the benefits associated with those options involves them in the treatment planning process, something that most patients truly appreciate.
“Standard of care” and “informed consent”
The standard of care is based on the level at which an average, prudent dentist with the same amount of training and experience would serve to practice in similar circumstances. Dentists shouldn’t rely on previous medical history or records from a previous dentist due to the possibility that the information may be erroneous. A dentist will likely find that they are liable if he or she relies on any incorrect information and the patient is subsequently harmed, as the dentist should have made the proper decision to save the patient from harm.
Most dentists should also be familiar with informed consent, which is a required element of patient care, which is not very complex. Dentists may not wish to overload patients with a lot of information. After all, if the patients are interested in understanding more they will generally ask questions. Patients may simply tell their dentist that they trust his or her judgment to perform the procedure, in their best interest, and haven’t a need to discuss the treatment.
However, patients can still fall back on the lack of informed consent and start legal action against their dentist. Patients must be informed as to the proposed treatment, any benefits or risks of the proposed treatment, alternative treatments available, along with the patient’s prognosis and the cost of the proposed treatment. Otherwise there could be a real need for dentist professional liability coverage if something goes terribly wrong.