The Ethics of a Dentist Leaving a Practice

An interesting article written by William Walton, appears in JADA December 2014, titled “Addressing the ethics of leaving a dental practice.” In the article, a discussion of what a dentist should ethically do when they are at a current dental practice and are moving to a different dental practice.

It is stated that the American Dental Association Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct provide guidance on what should be done in such a situation. It is suggested that once a dentist knows they are moving to a different practice they notify their patients of this and the departure date. Further, if a patient is in the midst of a treatment plan, then discussions should take place regarding if the treatment can be finished and if this is unlikely then other options for completing the treatment should be discussed. This will allow the patients to be involved in their treatment decisions.

Another issue at stake is that of patient abandonment. The dentist should not discontinue the treatment without giving the patient adequate notice and the opportunity to seek the services of another dentist. If needed interim dentists can be used.

The article addresses a few issues in regards to coordinating care for the patients with other dentists. This is because the dentist may be leaving a practice due to disagreements about financial compensation and terms of their contract. Even so if this is the case the dentist should refrain from any potential disparaging comments about colleagues and be truthful in their communication. At the end of the day a dentist leaving a practice should remember to help make the transition for their patients to a new dentist the best possible it can be.

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