Dangerous Dentistry: What One Connecticut Dentist Did That Got His License Suspended

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Connecticut officials have suspended the license of an Enfield, Connecticut, dentist after a patient apparently died in the dentist’s chair on February 17, 2014. In a single visit the dentist allegedly attempted to extract 20 teeth from a 64-year-old woman who had prior health issues on record. One of the dental assistants reportedly begged for the procedure to be cut short after the patient began gurgling and lost consciousness. CPR was performed on the unresponsive patient before she was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to WGGB ABC40, the dentist faces a hearing before the Connecticut State Dental Board on June 18, 2014.

To read the article from WGGB ABC40, click here.

A Repeat Offender.

The state of Connecticut alleges that in addition to the botched extraction, the dentist also failed to properly respond when the patient’s oxygen levels dramatically dropped. According to New York Daily News, state records show a four-count petition claiming that the dentist “deviated from the standard of care in that he did not timely and/or properly respond to (the patient’s)… respiratory distress and/or cardiopulmonary distress.” The patient’s official cause of death is yet to be formally determined.

The dentist’s license, issued by the state of Connecticut in 2003, was suspended April 21, 2014, pending the hearing. This is not the first legal run-in for the dentist. According to New York Daily News, in December 2014 the dentist was performing a procedure when his patient began to “aspirate the throat pack” and was rushed to a nearby hospital. The patient in this case spent six days in the hospital with heart and lung damage.

The dentist was also sued for malpractice by a former employee in 2009. Shoddy dental work was cited as the claim. The ruling ended in an out-of-court settlement. To read more from the New York Daily News article, click here.

Take ESOs Seriously.

An emergency suspension order (ESO) can be issued when a healthcare professional is posing a threat to the public. In this case, the dentist had a lengthy past of legal issues that would inevitably draw attention to his practice as a hazard. It is important to note that when a practitioner exhibits a pattern of reckless behavior numerous times, an ESO commonly follows thereafter. When an ESO is issued, a practitioner must immediately cease all practice until the suspension is lifted. Even an alleged case of malpractice can deem a healthcare practitioner an ESO. Receiving an ESO is a very serious matter. Many healthcare practitioners tend to overlook the severity of this action. You need to consistently practice proper ethics and install a system of checks and balances within your office to ensure the protection of your practice and license.

As a professional, you should take any and all necessary precautions to protect your license and reputation. Proactively avoid any irregular behaviors or fraudulent actions that could put your license at risk. If you find yourself in a situation where you are served an ESO it is vital that you immediately hire a professional and experienced healthcare attorney to represent you. If it’s a matter of not being able to afford the expenses in hiring an attorney, look at it this way: your livelihood is on the line, you can’t afford NOT to.

Anytime you suspect a claim or a complaint may be filed against you, immediately hire an attorney experienced in such matters.

Comments?

Emergency suspension orders are a common concern for healthcare professionals and their careers. What types of regulations, guidelines or practices do you mandate in your office in order to avoid a potential crisis such as an ESO? Do you have any personal experiences in dealing with ESOs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Emergency Suspension Orders and Other Licensure Actions.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling licensure and disciplinary cases, including emergency suspension orders, administrative complaints, investigations, administrative hearings, investigations, licensing issues, settlements and more. If you are currently facing adverse action by the DOH contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Conn. Suspends Enfield Dentist’s License After Patient Death.” WGGB ABC40. (May 19, 2014). From: http://www.wggb.com/2014/05/19/conn-suspends-enfield-denists-license-after-patient-death/

Goldstein, Sasha. “Connecticut Dentist Suspended After Patient Dies While Having 20 Teeth Pulled in One Visit.” New York Daily News. (May 27, 2014). From: http://on.flatoday.com/1vBJZAd

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

More Than 7,000 Patients of Oklahoma Dentist Are Being Asked to Get Tested for HIV and Hepatitis

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The unsanitary practices of an Oklahoma dentist may have exposed more than 7,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis, according to a number of media sources and the Oklahoma Department of Health (DOH). Currently officials with the Oklahoma DOH are contacting all of the dentist’s patients since 2007, and urging them to get tested for blood-borne diseases. Since the news broke on March 28, 2013, the dentist has voluntarily closed his two offices and surrendered his dental license for 30 days.

Click here to read a copy of the letter from Oklahoma DOH warning the dentist’s patients to get tested.

We want to point out that these are just allegations made against the dentist at this point in time and have not been proven by the state.

Dentist Accused of Being a “Menace to the Public” in Complaint.

According to the complaint filed with the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, the dentist is allegedly facing 17 allegations from The Board due to the violations against his practice.

Alleged charges against the dentist include:

1.  A patient testing positive for HIV and hepatitis C;

2.  The dental practice being unsafe, unsanitary and lacking of sterilization checks;

3.  Committing gross negligence related to decisions related to the dental health care of patients;

4.  Practicing dentistry without the proper display of licenses and certifications;

5.  Violation of provisions of the State Dental Practice Act by failing to keep a suitable record of dangerous drugs;

6.  Unlawful practices in authorizing dental assistants to practice dentistry; and

7.  Having open vials of medications and unsanitary dental materials in an unclean environment.

Click here to read the complaint.

Dentist Admitted to Not Handling Sterilization and Drugs Procedures.

According to the complaint, a device in the dentist’s office used to sterilize dental instruments wasn’t working properly. An inspector also found two separate sets of instruments. Each set was cleaned differently, one set of instruments was for patients known to have infectious diseases, and one set was for those not believed to have such diseases. Oklahoma DOH officials said the proper approach is for all instruments to be handled as if they contain viruses and infectious diseases.

According to an article in The New York Times, the dentist allegedly told officials during one inspection of his office that his staff handled all sterilization and drug procedures. Click here to read the entire article from The New York Times.

Dentist Faces Hearing at State Board of Dentistry.

According to the Oklahoma DOH, the dentist has been a state-licensed dentist since 1974, and an oral surgeon since 1977. He faces the possibility of having his license revoked, after a hearing on April 19, 2013, at the state Board of Dentistry in Oklahoma. This investigation is ongoing.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this dentist’s story? Are you curious as to how the practice got so bad? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Oklahoma Board of Dentistry State of Oklahoma v. Wayne Scott Harrington, D.M.D. Case Number 13-005. Statement of Complaint. (March 28, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/OK%20Dentist%20Complaint.pdf

Ball, Brandi. “Tulsa County Dentist May Have Exposed 7,000 Patients to HIV, Hepatitis.” News on 6. (March 28, 2013). From: http://www.newson6.com/story/21820518/tulsa-county-dentist-may-have-exposed-patients-to-hiv-hepatitis

Oklahoma State Department of Health. “Tulsa Health Department, Oklahoma State Department of Health and Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Investigate Tulsa Dentist.” (March 28, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/ZwRhRT

Fernandez, Manny. “Tests Start for Patients of Dentist in Inquiry.” The New York Times. (March 29, 2013). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/health/dental-patients-in-oklahoma-warned-of-disease-risk.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Debary Dentist Served with Emergency Suspension Order for Allegedly Inhaling Laughing Gas

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Debary, Florida, dentist has been served with an emergency suspension order (ESO) by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide or laughing gas in front of patients. The administrative complaint filed against the dentist on November 2, 2012, by the Florida DOH stated a department-approved evaluator deemed the dentist unfit to practice dentistry and was recommended to undergo residential treatment.

Click here to read the full administrative complaint against the dentist.

We want to point out that these are just allegations made against the dentist at this point in time and have not been proven by the state.

Dentist Allegedly Did Not Finish Rehabilitation.

In June 2012, the Florida DOH ordered the dentist to be treated for alcohol and inhalant dependence. However, while in rehabilitation, she allegedly failed drug tests for alcohol, opiates and hydrocodone. She was then later reportedly caught inhaling laughing gas again.

The dentist allegedly refused another treatment plan by writing on it that she was going to drink champagne on holidays and special occasions.

The Office May Still Be Open.

On November 27, 2012, WFTV in Orlando reported a woman that looked to be the suspended dentist drove up to the Debary office and posted a handwritten sign on the front door that read, “Office is open.”

To see the story from WFTV, click here.

The Florida DOH states that when a licensee is served with an ESO that person may not practice in Florida while his or her license is suspended. Click here to see the status of the dentist’s license from the DOH.

The Dentist’s Options – Formal Hearing or Hearing Before the Board of Dentistry.

The dentist may elect to have a formal hearing contesting the facts with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). She also may waive this right and not dispute the facts and have an informal hearing before the Board of Dentistry. The Board will then make a final decision concerning the dentist’s license and her future working in dentistry. Be sure to check this blog for updates.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this dentist’s story? Does she deserve another chance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Walsh, Michael. “Dentist Gassing Up on Nitrous Oxide No Laughing Matter.” New York Daily News. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/dentist-gassing-nitrous-oxide-laughing-matter-article-1.1209081?print

Barber, Tim. “Dentist Accused of Using Laughing Gas on Self While Working on Patients.” WFTV. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/dentist-accused-using-laughing-gas-while-operating/nTGJd/

Department of Health v. Sharon Ann Day-Osteen, D.D.S. Case Number 2012-13461. Administrative Complaint to the Board of Dentistry. (November 2, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/doh%20v%20Day-Osteen.pdf

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Dentists: Please, Please, Please Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Listen up, In Florida You DO NOT Have to Speak to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to dentists, throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

Heed This Warning – Investigators are NOT on Your Side.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protect Yourself, Your License and Your Reputation.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your dental license revoked or have your DEA number revoked or lose your Medicare provider status or your Medicaid provider status, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove ths case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your dental license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many dentists, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

Do NOT Admit to Anything; It May Ruin Your Defense.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many dentists believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that you wrote the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

How to Determine the Reason Behind the Investigation.

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out; It Will NOT Work.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Consult an Attorney Before You Do or Say ANYTHING.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the doctor only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Preserve Your Dental License – Pretrial Intervention and Drug Court as Alternatives to Conviction, Nolo Contendere, or Adjudication Withheld

By Lance O. Leider, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

As if being faced with the consequences of criminal charges wasn’t frightening enough, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other health professionals have the added danger of having their licenses disciplined or revoked if they plead nolo contendere or guilty to a criminal charge

Whether you are applying for a new license to practice or have been practicing for years you are under an obligation to report “convictions” and “pleas” to the board that governs your profession.  The normal definition of a “conviction” is not the same as the Department of Health (DOH) and the various professional boards use.

Pursuant to Section 456.072, Florida Statutes, licensed healthcare providers can be disciplined for all of the following dispositions of a criminal case:

- Actual conviction (by a judge or jury)

- Entering a plea of guilty

- Entering a plea of nolo contendere 

- Adjudication Withheld

Click here to see Section 456.072, F.S.

That’s right, adjudication withheld and nolo contendere pleas are all treated the same as a conviction as far as your professional license is concerned.

While these alternative means of disposing of a criminal case may be beneficial or expedient for the average citizen, healthcare practitioners have to think of what those dispositions mean for their license.

Don’t give up hope yet though, there is an alternative that will permit your criminal case to be favorably disposed of and allow you to potentially avoid discipline to your professional license.  That alternative is pretrial intervention (PTI) programs, sometimes referred ti as “PTI” or “PTIO.”

What Is Pretrial Intervention?

PTI is a diversion program for those accused of certain types of crimes that, if successfully completed, results in the criminal charges being dismissed.  The best part of this option is that it does not require the defendant to enter any plea.

Individuals who are enrolled in PTI programs are on a sort of quasi-probation.  The criminal case against them is continued (put on hold) while the PTI program is running.  Typical conditions of PTI supervision require periodic reporting, drug screening, mental health or substance abuse counseling, community service, and payment of supervision fees.

Who Is Eligible For Pretrial Intervention?

Eligibility for entry into PTI programs is governed by Sections 948.08 and 948.16, Florida Statutes.

To see Section 948.08, F.S., or Section 948.16, F.S., click the links.

Generally, any first time offender, or any person who has previously been convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or third-degree felony is eligible for PTI so long as the following requirements are met:

1. The defendant has voluntarily agreed to participate in PTI,

2. Consent of the victim,

3. Consent of the prosecutor, and

4. Consent of the judge who presided at the initial appearance.

Should the offense for which the practitioner is facing charges be related to controlled substances, the statute offers additional eligibility criteria:

1. Those charged with nonviolent felonies and are identified as having a substance abuse problem; or,

2. Those who are charged with felonies of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance, or obtaining a prescription by fraud; and

3. Who have not been previously convicted of a felony, nor admitted to a felony PTI program.

Similar programs are available for those having substance abuse problems who are charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, or those who are charged with misdemeanor possession of drugs or alcohol, prostitution, or possession without a prescription.

Conclusion.

PTI may seem like more of a hassle for minor offenses than simply accepting a plea or adjudication withheld.  This may be true for the average person, but licensed health professionals have to take into account the professional consequences that come from a conviction, or other similar dispositions of the case. These include actions against their license, reports to certification bodies, reports to health facilities in which they are licensed and reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or other data banks.

The most important thing to remember about PTI is successful completion of the program results in the charges being dismissed!

This means you don’t have to report anything to your board and there will be no discipline on your license.  Furthermore, you can later apply to have the arrest expunged (if you are otherwise eligible).

The benefits of entry into a PTI program by a healthcare practitioner cannot really be overstated.  The disciplinary process is often long and extremely costly.  The effects of discipline on your license can follow you for the remainder of your career and is publicly available to anyone who cares to look.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced healthcare attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Section 948.08, Florida Statutes

Section 948.16, Florida Statutes

Section 456.072, Florida Statutes

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a dentist’s license to practice and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the dentist who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by dentists after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the dentist.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the dentist cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

1.   Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.2.   Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3.   Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4.   Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct dentist. (Note: Check name and license number).

5.   Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the dentist’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)

6.   Providing a copy of the dentist’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7.   Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

8.   Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9.   Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient dental record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

10. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient dental record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

11. Failing to keep an exact copy of any dental records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

12. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

15. Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18. Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.

20. Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21. Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.

23. Attempting to defend themselves.

24. Believing that because they know someone with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

Bonus Point: 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed. There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the dentist may be disciplined.

In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel. In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing. The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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