Some Dentists Refuse To
Treat HIV-positive Patients
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite recommendations to the contrary, about 1 in 6 dentists in Canada still refuse to treat HIV-positive patients, according to a survey published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Sixteen percent of the over 4,000 dentists surveyed by Dr. Gillian McCarthy of the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, Canada and colleagues said they would refuse to treat a patient with HIV.
Many of the unwilling dentists said they did not feel they had an ethical responsibility to treat HIV patients. Some said that they refused because they were unable to deal with staff fears, and others said that their office was not equipped to treat AIDS patients.
And some of the dentists surveyed said that they were unwilling to visit a dentist who treated HIV patients themselves due to fears of cross-infection.
The American Dental Association maintains that it is unethical to refuse to provide care to an individual solely because he or she has HIV or AIDS.
"Dentists may exercise reasonable discretion in selecting patients for their practices, but to deny treatment solely on the basis of a patient's HIV status is unreasonable,'' according to an Association statement.
Educating dentists may be the best way to overcome their reluctance to treat HIV patients, according to the authors. "In addition to increased emphasis on infection control and knowledge of infectivity of blood-borne pathogens, teaching of biomedical ethics at the undergraduate and postgraduate level and in continuing education may reduce dentists' refusal to treat HIV-infected patients,'' they conclude.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 1999;89:541-545.