he 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.