Ethics in Transition
Whenever the daily routine tries to tear you down, look at the brightness of the sun and the sparkling, colorful reflection of the light in nature. That will bring you up instantly.
In the world of Frank Sinatra you have now “entered the autumn of your years.” By this time, the vast majority of dentists in the United States (and the world) have transitioned from dental school to private practice. Others have gone into a hospital-based practice or the federal services. Thankfully, some practitioners have remained in academics and are helping a new generation of dentists become educated at both the undergraduate and specialty levels.
Hopefully, by this time, the practitioner has been involved in an “ethical practice.” Patients and colleagues have been approached and treated with the utmost respect and professionalism. This is not to say that every act is considered and questioned as to its ethical nature. But, subconsciously, practitioners keep the principles of ethics in the back of their minds. This is the transition period where we move from one aspect of our professional lives to another. Perhaps, we are going from full-time practice to a part-time position. We may be transitioning from practice to academics or looking into a totally different career such as consulting. We may be bringing a new, younger dentist into our practice with the plan for them to take over the practice.
Just as ethics play a continuing role in the everyday practice of dentistry, it will also come into play as the dentist transitions at the end of their career. Earlier in this book, the American Dental Association (ADA) Code of Ethics was discussed, and this same code, which assisted in our daily practice of dentistry, and will now serve as a guide to our transition. Our ethical obligations to the patients and colleagues will remain the same. Also coming into play, more so than in our daily practice, will be legal issues that may at times appear to conflict with ethical dilemmas.
In the United States, the dentist is governed by the Dental Practice Acts of the various states. The dentist must also take into consideration additional laws, rules, and regulations that are there primarily to protect the public. In a similar manner, other countries or regions, the European Union for example, will have laws and rules that will regulate the practice of dentistry within their own purview. As each state or entity establishes its own laws and rules, what is legal in one may not be legal in another. In addition, the practitioner and the law will also be guided by “the standard of care.”