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HIV tests urged for 7,000 dentist's patients

Most of the cases of medical malpractice we discuss in this Michigan Personal Injury Law blog involve small mistakes or oversights that led to significant injuries or illnesses for a patient. Of course, doctors and nurses have very important jobs, and the standards of care are held very high in order to avoid such consequences. In a potential case of medical malpractice that is making national news this week, the medical mistakes are far more egregious than what we typically write about.

Health inspectors in Oklahoma believe that a dentist may have exposed as many as 7,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B by routinely using rusty instruments, among other unaccepted dental office practices. The state's dentistry board has already labeled the dentist a "menace to the public health," according to an NBC News report, and the state has urged the dentist's patients to be screened for HIV and hepatitis.

The state began investigating the dentist after learning that one of his patients tested positive for HIV and hepatitis C although the patient had no known risk factors. Additional tests found that this patient did not actually have HIV.

When investigators visited the dentist's offices, they found expired medication and learned the dentist used rusty tools on patients that were known to have infectious diseases, among other issues. Rusty dental tools cannot be sterilized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The dentist, who has been practicing for 36 years, has closed his offices and voluntarily turned in his license, according to a news report.

Those who sustain illnesses or injuries here in Michigan due to a dentist's or another medical professional's failure to meet the accepted standard of care can seek to obtain compensation for damages in with a medical malpractice claim. This is a complicated process, and it is beneficial to seek legal representation to ensure one's rights are protected.

Source: Associated Press, "Dentist's office a 'menace'; HIV tests urged for thousands," Justin Juozapavicius, March 29, 2013

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