How to avoid being sued?
In the latest issue of Dispatch (August/September 2014), the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) published a brochure for dentists on how to avoid being sued by patients.The brochure contains valuable information that could help dentists across Canada improve their relationship with patients and avoid the threat of legal action. Here is a brief summary.
The threat of a claim for professional negligence hangs over every Canadian health practitioner. Though an unfortunate reality in our society, there are things dentists can do to mitigate that threat. The following are tips for minimizing the risk of being on the receiving end of an action for dental malpractice.
Why do patients sue?
- Contrary to popular mythology, the primary driver of lawsuits against health care providers is not money.
- Providing timely, accurate and complete information about the circumstances leading to an injury may undercut one of the incentives for seeking legal redress.
- Patients who believe their injuries were caused by ongoing systemic or endemic deficiencies may also look to the courts to help prevent similar incidents.
- Patients may also be inclined to take legal action or launch complaints against health practitioners who attempt to deflect responsibility.
- A pervasive theme found in medical and dental malpractice actions is the breakdown of the clinical relationship due to the practitioner’s poor communication style.
- The key elements in establishing and maintaining a healthy, non-adversarial therapeutic relationship with a patient include:
- Accurately representing professional qualifications and credentials;
- Acknowledging and, where appropriate, validating the patient’s concerns;
- Showing respect for patient autonomy by informing the patient about the benefits, limitations and risks of any proposed treatment;
- Ensuring that treatment recommendations are based solely on the patient’s best interests;
- Taking the time to listen to and answer the patient’s questions;
- Recognizing, acknowledging and attempting to relieve the patient’s suffering, especially in case of an adverse clinical result.
Dispatch is the official publication of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO). You can read the current and past issues of the magazine, here.