Non-clinically justified radiograph

The scene

In a recent advice line call, a member had been approached by a patient who was bringing a claim for an erroneous extraction against a previous treating dentist. The patient themselves was unhappy about the request, as they had recently had a series of radiographs taken by the member when attending as a new patient. However, they had been advised by their solicitor that without current up-to-date images, the claim could fail.

DDU advice

Our member was understandably and justifiably unhappy to agree to this request and called the DDU to discuss their concerns. Our adviser agreed that there was no clinical justification for taking the radiographs, and to do so would be contrary to the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations (IR(ME)R 2017 (as amended 2018)). These regulations require employers to have a procedure in place for ‘non-medical imaging exposures’, defined as ‘any deliberate exposure of humans for imaging purposes where the primary intention of the exposure is not to bring a health benefit to the individual being exposed.’

Furthermore, our adviser explained that writing a condition and prognosis report, along with providing treatment options and future costings, would mean acting as an expert witness. The adviser referred the member to our advice on the website.

Our member was very reassured by the call and felt confident in explaining their concerns to the patient, who fully accepted the explanation as to why the member would not be taking further images.

There is always a DDU adviser on hand to talk through your concerns. Members’ feedback is that while sometimes they feel they know the answer to their queries, being able to discuss matters with a dental colleague who fully understands the clinical scenario is invaluable.

Learning points

Members will probably receive many requests for copies of records throughout their career. Most of these are straight forward and easy enough to handle, and the DDU has previously produced guidance on records disclosure for members’ information.

However, some scenarios are more complex. These include requests from third parties, such as the police or social services, and in such situations we would encourage you to call our advice line, where a dento-legal adviser will be on hand to talk things through over the phone.

As well as this, members are sometimes asked for factual reports, and report writing guidance from the DDU is also available on our website. In either scenario, it’s very important to understand what is being asked of you and the scope of your role.

The DDU has also been contacted by members about requests from patients to have dental radiographs taken. Typically, the patients have been advised by their solicitors while investigating a claim for dental negligence, to attend their dentist and get up-to-date radiographs and a condition and prognosis report, with treatment options and replacement costs.

This page was correct at publication on 14/08/2019. Any guidance 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.

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