Dental professionals can find themselves in the public eye for a variety of reasons, and in these circumstances might be concerned if anything published about them or their practice is not accurate or is misleading.
The offending information may have been published in the press, online or in another public place or document.
If members find their clinical practice is misrepresented in media reports, it may be possible to seek a correction, clarification and/or apology from the newspaper or broadcaster directly. It will be necessary to consider patient confidentiality and the fact that as part of any correction, the offending part of the initial report is usually repeated.
With a dedicated press and media team on hand to support members with these types of enquiries, we can advise about this and on the best approaches to take with local and national newspapers, most of which have readers' editors.
If an attempt to correct misleading information is unsuccessful, the DDU can help with a complaint to the IPSO or, where broadcast media is concerned, Ofcom. Our dento-legal advisers and press officers are happy to advise members who feel they have been misrepresented in the media.
Sometimes, members ask if the DDU would support them in a defamation action in the courts. The law of defamation is complex, and actions can be lengthy.
Put simply, defamation can arise where a false statement is made that lowers a reputation in the view of right-thinking people and its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. It is not a straightforward process and the Defamation Act 2013 provides a number of defences, including:
- the matter imputed was substantially true
- that it was an honestly held opinion
- that it was a statement on a matter of public interest
- the statement is in a scientific or academic journal and is protected by privilege.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of a defamation action with any certainty and if the matter goes to trial the publicity generated often means the defamatory comment reaches a wider audience than the original statement.
Given the unpredictable nature of defamation proceedings, we believe it is not generally in members' interests for us to use their funds to offer discretionary indemnity for other members to pursue defamation actions.
It is also unlikely we would assist members in defending defamation actions that did not result directly from their clinical care of patients (such as actions arising out of inter-professional disputes).
Dental professionals in the media
If you write, broadcast on radio or TV or publish information online, you need to seek indemnity from the publisher, broadcaster or internet service provider - in case (for example) a libel action is brought, or allegations of breach of copyright are made, as a result of something you have written, broadcast or published.
You should not rely on your DDU membership in relation to these types of activities.
This page was correct at publication on 16/08/2021. 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.