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Former dental patients tested for exposure to hepatitis and HIV

When hearing the phrase “medical malpractice,” many Oregonians may think of hospital and surgical errors. While these errors certainly occur on an all too regular basis, medical malpractice is not limited to claims of hospital negligence. A developing story out of the Midwest shows the serious consequences of malpractice at your local dentist’s office.

Hundreds of patients from an Oklahoma dentist’s office have recently been tested for exposure to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV by the Tulsa Health Department. This is just a small percentage of the 7,000 patients over the past six years who may have been exposed to either hepatitis or HIV. The screenings are being conducted after an investigation found unsanitary and unprofessional conditions at the dentist’s office. According to one official, the unsanitary conditions created a “perfect storm” for infections.

The 64-year-old oral surgeon recently surrendered his dental license after 35 years of experience. The investigation began after one of the dentist’s patients was diagnosed with hepatitis C. The patient also tested positively for HIV, but a later test came back negative. The investigation launched by the Board of Dentistry found sterilization and cross-contamination infractions. Staffing problems were also noted, including “unauthorized and unlicensed” employees using IVs on patients and the improper handling of needles.

The story shows that even at the most routine of medical visits, patients place their trust and their lives in the hands of their medical providers. Simple mistakes such as the mishandling of needles or improper sanitation can cause serious or permanent injuries. These mistakes can even prove to be fatal, especially when there is the potential for transmitting a deadly disease such as HIV. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, a medical malpractice claim provides a way to hold negligent medical providers responsible for their mistakes.

Source: CNN, “Scores of Tulsa dental patients tested for hepatitis, HIV exposure,” Susan Candiotti, Ross Levitt & Ed Lavandera, March 31, 2013