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Letters: Ethics at charity events

June 20, 2016 There was an interesting article in the Oct. 5, 2015, ADA News "Ethics at Charitable Events Examined."

Through the years that the Mission of Mercy has been an entity to help underserved with their dental issues, there have been over 211,000 patients treated (adults and children), with restorations, root canals, radiographs when needed, hygiene, oral surgery, full and partial dentures, pediatric care, home care instructions and more. Each patient is treated with kindness and integrity, as all who volunteer for these events realize but for the grace of God we could be the ones in need of help.

Since the inception of the Mission of Mercy, over $132 million of free dental care has been administered to patients in need. I am wondering: where would all of those who were treated have gone without the Missions of Mercy, started by Dr. Terry Dickinson of the Virginia Dental Association in 2000? I am sure many of them would have ended up in a hospital emergency room, which is an expensive avenue to follow for dental pain. Many would have remained in pain; in poor health due to infection; not able to work and provide for themselves; and not able to even find a job to support themselves and their families.

None of these people are paid for their charitable time. The other interesting item is that no government money is utilized for this care either. The cost to put on a Mission of Mercy, depending on the size of the event, is from $150,000 to $300,000, and all of this money is raised by the dental groups that put on the event. Much of the donated dollars are from dentists and dental suppliers and dental insurance companies.

These organizations are administered by the dental profession in a way to give back to people in need. Not one of these volunteers is forced in any way to give of their time, talent, energy and knowledge.They are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. I am not sure about the challenge of ethics that was indicated in the ADA article. It is my understanding that all Missions of Mercy and Give Kids A Smile events are administered with the greatest amount of integrity and ethics. The real question is how can we help more people in need, spend time in our offices doing free dental care for those who cannot afford dental treatment, attend more charitable events and help our people in America first? Rather than criticize what is being done we should look for ways to make more of this type of event possible so more people in need can be treated. We live in a great country where people want to help others and this should not be criticized but should be enhanced.

In closing, I think all those that do help with these free clinics should be applauded for their philanthropy and I would encourage more professionals to help with these free events. What a great way to do what Winston Churchill said: "We make a living with what we get. We make a life with what we give."

Steve F. Anderson, D.D.S.
Past President of the America's Dentists' Care Foundation
Grand Island, Nebraska

Note from Dr. Thomas M. Raimann, member of the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs, who helped author the white paper:
In response to Dr. Anderson's view that the white paper addressing ethics at charitable dental events was critical of those events, that was not the case at all. As someone who has volunteered at the MOM event in my state for two years, vice chaired the event for an additional two years and chaired the event for an additional three years, I understand the need that these events fulfill and that dental professionals selflessly give thousands of hours of time at the events. The purpose of the white paper is to provide a resource to volunteers on the ethical issues that frequently arise at charitable events.

The white paper was certainly not intended to criticize, as the introduction to the paper makes plainly evident: "While these events serve a tremendous need, consideration of the ethical implications is an important a part of the projects and essential to the ability to provide care. This paper attempts to assist project coordinators in identifying the ethical issues that must be addressed and offers suggestions for addressing them."