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Federal agency thanks Association for revising Code of Conduct

January 28, 2019

By David Burger

Washington — The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency, is commending the ADA for taking necessary steps to improve dental care access for people with disabilities with a revision to the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.

Photo of Dr. Herman
Dr. Herman
Photo of Dr. Smith
Dr. Smith
At the council's recommendation, the ADA House of Delegates approved Resolution 50H-2018 that would revise the Code to better reflect the rights of patients with disabilities in providers' patient selection.

The resolution was submitted by the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs.

The changes, reflected in section 4. A of the Code, now explicitly prohibit dental care providers from denying care to patients because of their disability, as was already the case based on a patient's race, creed, color, sexual orientation or gender identity, or national origin.
 
Additionally, the Code, in section 4. A. 1, now specifies that patients with disabilities in need of another dentist's skills, knowledge, equipment, or expertise should not be turned away and should instead be referred to dentists able to provide the necessary care.

Dr. James Smith, chair of the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs, said the changes were necessary. "CEBJA helps to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation to the public," he said. "A big part is fairness, justice and equity. We want everyone to have access to optimal oral health. It's the right thing to do."

"These revisions are vital because the ADA Code is typically the standard upon which state laws and regulations are based, and, as stated in NCD's October 2017 issue brief on the subject, many patients with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are unable to obtain dental care, leaving many with untreated diseases," according to a news release issued by the National Council on Disability.

"This decision by the ADA no doubt represents a leap in the right direction toward equal access for people with disabilities that cannot afford to be turned away by their care providers," said Neil Romano, National Council on Disability chair, in the news release. "It also represents a step towards full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency as envisioned by laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and NCD's own mission. On behalf of the millions of Americans with disabilities, NCD thanks the American Dental Association for taking this important step toward improving the overall health care of this often-underserved population."

Dr. Gary Herman, immediate past chair of the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs, said that revisions to the Code are made when needed. "We see it a living document, but the basic principles are the same. This is what we dentists have agreed to abide by."

The National Council on Disability is an independent federal agency that promotes policies, programs, practices and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, and empowers individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society.

The updated ADA Code is available at ADA.org.