The scene

A member in an orthodontic practice called the DDU advice line for help after a disagreement between a patient and their parent.

The patient in question was 16 years old and had recently been fitted with a brace by the DDU member at the practice. However, the patient's father had subsequently called in to say that now it was fitted, he was unhappy with his child's brace and wanted to make a complaint.

DDU advice

The member spoke to a dento-legal adviser, who discussed the best way forward. The main point was that as because the patient was over the age of consent, and had already consented to the treatment, the father couldn't override the patient's own decisions.

The dento-legal adviser felt that it might be best to speak to the patient alone, as well as speaking to the father (with the patient's consent), and that the member should explain both the legal and ethical position so all parties understood the reasons for any decisions made. As well as this, the DLA recommended considering a 'cooling off period', during which the patient and the parent would have the opportunity to resolve their differences between themselves.

If the situation escalated, the DLA reminded the member that the braces should only be removed if the dentist was satisfied that this was what the patient - not the father - really wanted. Irrespective of the outcome, detailed notes of all the conversations the member had with the patient and their father would make sure their actions and decisions could be corroborated later on if needed.

As with all advice line dilemmas, the adviser invited the member to call back if there were any developments which required further advice or assistance.

One of the DDU's core services is to provide expert dento-legal advice to our members, who can call us any time they find themselves facing a tricky or unfamiliar ethical situation, or need guidance on what to do when something has gone wrong.

Calling our advice line is free, treated in the strictest of confidence and does not affect future subscriptions.

If you need help with a dento-legal issue, we can guide, support and defend you through every stage of the process. Contact us here.


This article was correct at publication on 08/12/2017. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.