Dentist may have exposed thousands to HIV virus

Thousands of patients of a dentist that practices in an upscale, modern looking building in Oklahoma are set to receive an unwelcome letter in the mail urging them to get tested for HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. The dental practice came under scrutiny when a patient of the dentist’s tested positive for hepatitis C and HIV despite any identifiable risk factors that would explain such an outcome. The results of the investigation are horrifying.

Investigators uncovered that the practice was not sterilizing equipment, was not staffing properly licensed individuals, and was using drugs that were 20-years-expired, among so many more egregious offenses. Among the list of infractions is that rusty equipment was used on patients known to be sick. Not only is using rusty equipment a horrible lapse of care, but rust cannot be sterilized, therefore using equipment that cannot be cleaned on a sick individual is begging for the spread of disease.

The findings are alarming and seem unfathomable. All patients that have been with the doctor since 2007 have been sent the notice to get tested, but not all records from prior to that are available. The doctor has been in practice for almost four decades, so the impact of his lapse in care could be significant. While it is too soon to know the impact of this case, there could be more victims that come forward as being infected with these diseases.

In related cases of medical negligence, victims are able to pursue financial compensation for the injuries they sustained, and the suffering from those injuries. This dentist that has been labeled a “menace to public health” has a hearing to determine the fate of his license in April. However, it would not be unexpected to find that he will have to return to court to further answer for his negligent behavior.

Source: Ct Post, “HIV test urged for 7,000 Oklahoma dental patients,” Justin Juozapavicius, March 29, 2013

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