Dentist accused of giving patients hepatitis C

For the first time in American history, a dentist is accused of allowing hepatitis C to spread among his patients. The dentist’s practice has been shut down, but not in time to possibly infect dozens of people.

Authorities in the state where the dentist practiced shut down his clinic in late March. Inspectors found at the time that staff members reused needles and that they and he routinely used rusty equipment. The inspection came after a patient tested positive for HIV.

Used needles can spread serious infections, and soon after the shutdown health officials contacted 7,000 of the dentist’s patients, suggesting that they get tested. More than half did so. Eighty-nine of those patient tested positive for hepatitis C, though only one case can be definitively linked to the clinic.

With that one proven case, the dental clinic become the first in the U.S. known to have spread hepatitis C between patients. Meanwhile, at least seven patients have filed a class-action medical malpractice suit against the dentist, his staff and others. In addition, besides the first known HIV case, three others have tested positive for the disease and five have been diagnosed with hepatitis B. In their complaint, health officials called the dentist a “menace to the public health.”

The dentist has voluntarily given up his license and will have a hearing before his state’s dental board early in 2014. He had practiced for 36 years.

It is shocking to hear that a dentist would put his patients’ health at such serious and obvious risk. If it is true, hopefully all of his patients who were infected by this severe negligence will be fully compensated for the damage to their health.

Source: CBS News, “Oklahoma: Hepatitis C was spread at Tulsa dental clinic,” Sep. 18, 2013

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