‘Grey area’ of ethics cleaned up

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has produced an online learning module to help dental professionals get to grips with the ethical dilemmas they face in their day-to-day practice, while earning CPD points.

The DDU online CPD module on dental ethics and law* aims to help members understand the main principles of topics such as confidentiality, consent and capacity. After reading background information including key principles and guidance written by the DDU’s dento-legal experts and working through a number of case studies, members of the dental team can then test their knowledge by answering multiple choice questions. On successful completion of the assessment, dental professionals gain fvive hours worth of CPD and a personalised certificate.

Leo Briggs, DDU dento-legal adviser, said: 'Dental ethics are not always black and white, and dilemmas present in many ways. There may be no easy answers to ethical problems in dentistry and no training can hope to cater for every eventuality in practice. But there are questions which dental professionals need to ask themselves, their patients and their colleagues, in order to determine the most appropriate course of action.

'Our interactive guide to ethics is aimed at helping members of the dental team to understand the principles of dental ethics and law and apply that knowledge to a variety of scenarios that typically arise in day-to-day practice.'

Examples of the scenarios from the module include:

• You are a GDP when a 35-year-old man is brought in requiring emergency treatment for dental trauma and severe oral bleeding. The police arrive at the practice and ask for the man’s name and address and details of his condition. They believe he was involved in an accident in which a pedestrian was knocked down and seriously injured. Can you give the police the patient’s details?

• A five-year-old child is brought into the practice by her mother. The mother asks for the girl to be treated with topical fluoride treatment. The father has phoned the practice previously to state that he does not wish the child to have the treatment because he thinks it is toxic. He wants you to prescribe an unlicensed herbal remedy instead. What should you do?

• An intelligent 12-year-old girl wants to begin orthodontic treatment to straighten her crooked teeth. She does not want her parents to know as, she says, they think the teeth give her face 'character'. Can you treat her without her parent’s knowledge?

• A patient well known to you has an altercation with a member of the reception staff. You are called and it is clear to you that he is under the influence of alcohol to the extent that he cannot stand steadily on his own feet. You notice he is clutching his car keys in his hand. He tells you belligerently that he is in a 'fighting mood' and no one is going to stop him driving away. What do you do?

*The DDU online CPD course on Dental Ethics and Law is available free to DDU members at www.theddu.com.

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