The Australian Litigation Landscape - Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and General Dentistry (Oral Surgery Procedures): An Analysis of Litigation Cases
Australian Dental Journal, Forthcoming
Posted: 10 Jul 2016 Last revised: 23 Nov 2016
Date Written: 2015
Background: There are persistent concerns about litigation in the dental and medical professions. These concerns arise in a setting where general dentists are more frequently undertaking a wider range of oral surgery procedures, potentially increasing legal risk.
Methods: Judicial cases dealing with medical negligence in the fields of general dentistry (oral surgery procedure) and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery were located using the three main legal databases. Relevant cases were analysed to determine the procedures involved, the patients’ claims of injury, findings of negligence, and damages awarded. A thematic analysis of the cases was undertaken to determine trends.
Results: Fifteen cases over a twenty-year period were located across almost all Australian jurisdictions (eight cases involved general dentists; seven cases involved Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons). Eleven of the fifteen cases involved determinations of whether or not the practitioner had failed in their duty of care; negligence was found in six cases. Eleven of the fifteen cases related to molar extractions (eight specifically to third molar).
Conclusions: Dental and medical practitioners wanting to manage legal risk should have regard to circumstances arising in judicial cases. Adequate warning of risks is critical, as is offering referral in appropriate cases. Pre-operative radiographs, good medical records, and processes to ensure appropriate follow-up are also important.
Keywords: Health law, Medical law, Dental law, Negligence, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
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