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Failure to disclose and obtain informed consent by a dentist (12HDC00437)
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(12HDC00437, 4 February
Dentist ~ Dental practice ~ Root canal ~ Broken instrument ~
Re-treatment ~ Informed consent ~ Failure to disclose ~ Vicarious
liability ~ Rights 6(1)(g), 6(1)(b), 4(2)
A young man, aged 16-17 years old at the time of these events,
experienced a fracture to one of his fillings. The man was assessed
and a root canal recommended. The man subsequently underwent the
root canal treatment and during that treatment, the dentist became
aware that one of the fine instruments used had separated or broken
off in the root canal. The dentist did not tell the man about the
separated instrument, nor did he document this in the clinical
Sometime later, the man began to experience pain. The dentist
undertook re-treatment of the tooth on three occasions, attempting
to remove or bypass the separated instrument. However, the dentist
did not tell the man about the reason for the re-treatment, the
options available, or the risks associated with each option,
including his skill in this area. Even when the man and his parents
asked the dentist about the reasons for the re-treatment, the
dentist did not tell them about the separated instrument.
When the tooth began to break away the man sought a second
opinion. It was only at this time that the man became aware of the
The dentist was found to have breached Right 6(1)(g) for failing
to disclose that an instrument had separated during the root canal
treatment. The dentist breached Right 6(1)(b) for failing to fully
inform the man about the reasons for his re-treatment, the
treatment options available to him, and the risks, side effects,
benefits and costs of those options, including his skills in the
area. The dentist also breached Right 7(1) for failing to obtain
the man's informed consent for the re-treatment.
For failing to comply with his professional responsibility to
keep proper records, the dentist also breached Right 4(2).
The dentist was referred to the Director of Proceedings.
The Director laid a charge before the Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal. The Tribunal viewed the dentist's failure to
inform his patient of the separated instrument and obtain his
informed consent to on-going treatment seriously. The Tribunal
censured the dentist and imposed a fine.
The employer did not have specific written policies in relation
to informed consent, and was vicariously liable for the dentist's
breaches of the Code.