Did Your Dentist Commit Patient Abandonment?

Most people hope to have long-lasting relationships with their dentists. However, dentists can drop patients and request they find care elsewhere. While they have the right to do this, these dentists can be held liable for any damages ex-clients sustain when they don't end their working relationships the right way. If your dentist abruptly stopped doing your dental work, here are two things to ask to determine if you're a victim of patient abandonment.

Did the Dentist Give a Valid Reason?

As noted previously, dentists can stop providing services to patients at any time as long as they have a valid reason for doing so. For instance, a dentist would be perfectly justified cutting off patients who have not paid their bills. Likewise, dentists cannot refuse services to individuals for illegal reasons, such as because of their race or sex. However, some reasons fall into a gray area and require an interpretation of the circumstances to determine if those reasons justify dropping the patients.

Dentists can turn clients away who they feel are abusive or disruptive, but it's not always clear whether a patient's behavior falls into those categories, for instance. The dentist may drop a client who argued with him over a procedure, but the court may disagree that the argument was terrible enough to excuse dumping the patient.

Your dentist should provide you with an explanation as to why you are being let go. If their rationale seems shady to you, try to get them to clarify their reasoning, especially if the person is referencing a specific situation or behavior on your part. Above all, make sure the dentist put his or her reasons in writing because it will make it easier to hold the person accountable in court when you have their words on paper.

Did You Have Enough Time to Find a Replacement?

Even if the dentist has a valid reason for letting you go, the person must provide you with a reasonable amount of time to find a replacement. Unfortunately, what's considered reasonable can vary depending on the situation.

If you are in the middle of a procedure (e.g. getting dental implants), the dentist should give you at least a month or two to find another dentist who can take over, for instance. On the other hand, if you are not scheduled to have any major work done or only routine care, then the dentist may only be required to give you a couple of weeks' notice they're dropping you as a client.

Your state may have laws that regulate how much notice medical professionals must give patients before they stop providing care. Thus, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer about the rules in your state to determine your dentist followed them correctly.

For more information about patient abandonment or help filing a malpractice suit against your dentist, contact a dental malpractice lawyer.