August 05, 2014

Common Dilemma: Retreat or Testify

As a Board Certified Prosthodontist, our office is considered the end of the line in the treatment of complex dental problems.  Often also, we are faced with the task of retreating dental work previously done by another dentist.

The California Dental Association Code of Ethics is very clear: it is unethical for a dentist to be both a treating dentist and an expert witness at the same time.  Why?  Because of the inherent conflict of interest--it is too tempting to testify in a cause of action if financial gain can be gotten.  Money has no morality.

In addition, both patient and practitioner must understand that not all dental work lasts forever.  The temptation to think that failure (or the need for retreatment) implies fault, and the progression from blame to the supposition of negligence is not consistent with the fact that, in dealing with human beings, no guarantees are possible.  The science and art of dentistry is continually evolving with a better understanding of the reasons that things done today can be better that than things done in the past.

So, being Board Certified and seeing these patients all too often, I long ago decided the best way to approach them is to be open and honest:  I can't and won't treat you if you want me to testify on your behalf.  It's one or the other.

My lifelong preference has been to treat, not to testify.  The satisfaction of making a patient whole again is the best testament to the fact that Prosthodontics can make most patients comfortable, functional and aesthetic.

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc.,
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics
(661) 325-1275 |
5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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