Washington dental board to conduct more thorough investigations of patient deaths related to malpractice
Seattle, WA (July 17, 2008) – Washington’s top health official is urging the state dental board to “investigate all patient deaths that occur in connection with dental care” – a policy change that would end cursory reviews of dental malpractice incidents that result in a patient's death.
In a letter to the state’s dental board chairman just two days ago, Health Secretary Mary Selecky wrote: “If every case is investigated, the commission can be assured it has all the details needed to make an informed decision for patient safety and public protection.”
A recent investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer prompted this call for change in the state’s procedures. Its articles revealed that details of death investigations are not made available to consumers without formal public disclosure requests, which means that most deaths are kept secret from the public.
According to the newspaper’s report, one death case was closed within two weeks without examining records other than the dentist's own account of the death. There is now a malpractice lawsuit pending against that Spokane dentist.
In another case, the dental commission chose not to sanction a Spokane oral surgeon in the death of an elderly woman, but the state's medical board charged him with unprofessional conduct related to her death. A settlement in that case was announced two days ago. The oral surgeon agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and his license was placed on probation for two years.Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. – We’re here for you . . .
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