I pen this letter with a saddened heart as I reflect on the direction that our society and the world is taking. I have dedicated the greater part of my life to my profession and have influenced four other members of my family to follow in my footsteps as doctors of dental medicine. Truly a legacy I am proud of.
In October 1991, after much deliberation, the House of Delegates meeting in Seattle adopted “The Dentist’s Prayer.” It was the ideal mission statement or parameter that recognized quality care, ethics and the human spirit, which we serve realizing that “there is a patient behind every tooth.”
First and foremost there was no intent of this being a religious invocation of any kind.
The reference committee’s perception resulting in their decision was grossly unfounded — erroneously misleading to the Board and the House and very presumptuous. The prayer is a statement that clearly states:
1. Gratitude to any supreme being (or none if you choose) for being a dentist.
2. Treat with reverence the human life.
3. Deepen your love for people.
4. Gladly treat those stricken with pain.
5. Listen, diagnose and prescribe in good conscience.
6. Blend gentleness with skill.
7. “Be a dentist with a heart as well as a mind.”
That is as general a parameter for our profession that I could imagine, devoid of any mandates. It has withstood the test of time. Each day we seek inspiration and petition a higher power in our own religious or nonsectarian way. The potential backlash of losing members as a result of this decision may in fact defeat the committee’s intent of inclusiveness.
You are taking away a parameter of care that many dentists worldwide have embraced. Without a doubt, the dentist’s prayer speaks for itself to patients as well, knowing that the doctor and the entire staff who provide services for their oral health are committed to excellence and ethics in their practice.
To further negate the distribution of this parameter the ADA took it upon itself to remove the wall plaques and personal cards that were already designed for the catalog of salable materials rather than help to promote its distribution.
The closing remark often heard in this discussion is, “Well, that’s the way the world is today.” I find that difficult to accept. Shouldn’t we try to make it a better world with tolerance and understanding working in harmony with each other? Over the past 25 years we have made great strides in research, technology, prevention, access to care and much more. Let us not interrupt this marriage on the basis of incompatibility. We have survived in a democracy that has allowed us free choice where the consensus or majority should rule.
The choice is yours: Accept things as they are or as they should be and rescind House Resolutions 74H-2019 and 75H-2019.
Joseph G Kalil, D.D.S.
Author, “The Dentist’s Prayer”
North Andover, Massachusetts