- Oral Cancer
- Dentist / RDH
- Six-Step Screening
- Book Eva to Speak
Harry A. Dorian, Jr., Esquire
Harry Dorian is the managing partner of the Bensalem, PA law firm of Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik, P.C. For more than 30 years, he has focused his practice on negligence cases involving serious injuries or death, including medical and dental malpractice. He has represented both defendants and plaintiffs. Harry is continually named a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer” by Philadelphia Magazine. For more than 15 consecutive years, he received the highest possible ratings for legal ability and ethical standards.
This information was presented at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry Continuing Education program event entitled, “Serve Your Patients Right and Avoid Being Served: Perspectives from the Doctor, Lawyer, and Patient.”
If you are interested in bringing this course to your dental community, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three basic elements:
If any are missing – a plaintiff will likely NOT succeed
Dental malpractice cases for failure to diagnose oral cancer can result in very large verdicts because victims often require extensive surgery and treatment and cannot return to work due to facial disfigurement and an inability to articulate. The largest oral cancer case to date resulted in a $15 million recovery.
Top reasons patients pursues a lawsuit:
Legal definition (generally): “The degree of care that a reasonably prudent healthcare professional should exercise“. In other words, “Rules” that must be followed for the health and safety of the patient.
The standards of care are based on many things, including research studies and surveys, training, common practices, and testimony from an expert in the field.
The standards of care for early detection of oral cancer require routine oral cancer screenings for all patients.
An expert will probably testify that the majority of general dentists perform oral cancer screening on their patients, and that the studies and literature require that practice, so it is the standard of care for dentist. Ultimately, a jury must decide if the standard was violated.
A jury will be swayed by the low cost of a screening, the minimal time it takes, and the risk to the patient if oral cancer is not diagnosed early.
Complying with the ‘standards of care’ means providing the best care possible for your patients, and possibly saving a patient’s life.
Use ink, chart promptly, initial, use consistent and standard abbreviations, write legible entries. Document all intra-oral and extra-oral cancer screening exams.
Alteration of Records can turn a “so-so case” into a good one and increases its value. Lawyers sometimes hire document experts who provide ink-dating along with a microscopic and chemical analysis. If a jury believes you re-wrote or changed records, they will believe you were covering up negligence.
Mistake in chart: put a single line through the error, initial and date it.
Addition to chart: properly date and time the additional information.
Electronic Records have an “audit trail” and contain metadata showing dates of entries and changes. A computer forensic expert can uncover improper or altered entries.
If you can save just ONE life in your entire career in dentistry, isn’t it worth it to do an oral cancer screening exam on all your patients?
*Disclaimer: The information contained in this article and on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal or medical advice. Malpractice laws vary from state to state. Each case is unique. You should contact an attorney immediately for advice regarding your individual situation. There are time limits in all jurisdictions for bringing a claim, or for responding to a complaint, so do not delay in seeking legal counsel.