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New white paper addresses ethics at charitable events

September 23, 2015

By David Burger

Cover page of white paper titled “The Ethics of Temporary Charitable Events.” 

Charitable events such as Missions of Mercy and Give Kids A Smile allow dental professionals to give back to their communities by providing free treatment to those in need.

But there are some ethical issues that must be considered when planning these charitable dental events.

That is why the Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs, the ADA agency dedicated to enhancing the ethical conscience of dentists, has just released a white paper titled “The Ethics of Temporary Charitable Events.” The document provides guidance on ethical issues that might arise, with advice based on the ADA’s Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.

Drs. Thomas E. Raimann, Elizabeth Reynolds, Emily Ishkanian, Puneet Kochhar, J. David Moss, A. Roddy Scarbrough and Robert A. Shekitka are the authors of the white paper.

“We’re hoping it eliminates problems before they occur,” said Dr. Reynolds, who practices in Richmond, Virginia.

The white paper includes discussions on topics such as:

  • Access to, maintenance of and the confidentiality of patient records.
  • The elements necessary for informed consent.
  • Patient abandonment.
  • Honestly educating patients about their treatment options and the limitations of a temporary charitable event.
  • The temporary nature of these events precluding development of an ongoing relationship with patients.
Photo of Dr. Reynolds
Dr. Reynolds

Dr. Raimann, who practices in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, said he has been involved in charitable dental events for 15 years — at one point he chaired the Wisconsin MOM for three years — and the potential for ethical issues has bothered him since the beginning.

Others were bothered by it, too, Dr. Raimann said, so two years ago CEBJA appointed him and the other authors to come up with a white paper on the issue.

“The paper came out really well,” said Dr. Reynolds. “It was a great collaborative effort.”

To make the white paper user-friendly, the authors prepared two checklists at the end of the text so that dental professionals could sidestep ethical problems before beginning treatment. Questions on the checklist include:

  • Is the patient involved in his or her treatment decisions?
  • Is the confidentiality of patient records respected?
  • Is the treatment necessary or is it being done to give the provider more experience?

“I hope it is used and considered at every MOM and GKAS event,” said Dr. Raimann.

To access the white paper, go to ADA.org and enter “ethics white paper” in the search engine.

For questions about the paper, contact Nanette Elster of CEBJA at elstern@ada.org.