UK Dentist Keeps His Job Despite Suggesting Listerine for Mouth Cancer - the Patient Died

by Gopalan on Sep 9 2008 11:26 AM

UK’s General Dental Council has allowed a dentist to continue to practice though he had suggested mouthwash for oral cancer and the patient died. The patients widow cries foul.

However Dr.Nalin Ramniklal Dhamecha will have to attend a minimum of 10 hours of courses on identifying potentially malignant lesions.

He will also be required to keep a log book on the management of patients with oral problems such as lesions for the next 12 months, the Council panel ruled.

The dentist told Robin Read, 44, back in May 2006 there was 'nothing untoward' with the ulcer on his tongue but the plumber only had a year to live.

Mrs Read said: 'If he had been referred to a specialist and diagnosed, Robin's chances would have been so much greater.'

'It may have been that the cancer would have come back after treatment but at least he would have had a longer life. That's why this is not fair.'

GDC said that Dhamecha's failure to spot the sore did not contribute to Read's death.

Panel Chair Dr John Gibson told the dentist even if he had detected the lesion on the tongue, the outcome would have been no different.

Read, who has a teenage daughter, first consulted Dhamecha at the Aberdeen House Dental Practice in Surrey, on two occasions.

The plumber had been visiting the surgery near his home since he was a child and began seeing Dhamecha when the previous dentist retired.  

Dhamecha suggested he use Bonjela and Listerine mouthwash to ease the ulcer, and took no history of Read's smoking.

When his mouth had still not healed by October that year, he booked another appointment with the dentist who told him there was 'nothing untoward' and said there was no need to come back for at least six months.

Within weeks, a large swelling appeared on the opposite side of Read's neck, and just before Christmas, Read was diagnosed with cancer at the Royal Surrey Hospital.He died in July 2007.

Mrs Read wept as she told the hearing: 'I can't begin to tell you what that man went through.

'The inside of his mouth was burnt to a crisp because of the radiotherapy. 

'He suffered more pain and agony than any human being should ever have to suffer. He couldn't eat or drink. He was a skeleton.

'He was in a hospice for the last three weeks where he was given the best treatment and care imaginable but by the end his face had just collapsed.' 

She added: 'Robin trusted professionals because he expected people to trust his professionalism in his expertise. He would not easily accept anybody telling him something different.' 

The GDC panel members ruled that it was 'not unreasonable' for Dhamecha to assume the ulcer had been caused by a faulty denture after the two initial appointments in May, and accepted that he had examined Read's lymph nodes.

But they found that his failure to realise it had not healed, or to make an urgent referral to a specialist on re-examination on October 16 and 20 amounted to misconduct.

Dr Gibson told Dhamecha: 'The committee feels that in regard to sanctions, it is entitled to give significant weight to your excellent practice both before and after 2006, the fact that the GDC accepts that you pose no risk to patients, that you are a dedicated and valuable member of the dental profession and your community, and the fact that you are, by your own admission, devastated by your failure.'

However, he also told Dhamecha: 'You failed to observe what was a significant lesion in Mr Read's tongue.

'These were serious omissions which, whilst not causing or contributing to his death, impacted on and breached the duty of the profession to protect patients from harm.'

Mrs Read, 52, who now lives near Leeds, and has two children from a previous relationship, said she was bitterly disappointed with the decision of the GDC.

'At the moment I just feel cheated. My husband has been cheated of his life. The whole thing stinks.

'Robin should have been given a chance but Dhamecha took that chance away from him.

'I don't think he should have been struck off. He has children and I would not like him
to lose his livelihood. I would have hoped he would have been given a suspension that would have given him time to think.' 

Mrs Read, who nursed her husband throughout his ordeal, said she is only beginning to come to terms with his death now the case is over.

'I just feel totally devastated,' she said.

'He is getting a second chance which is more than he gave Robin.

'It seems a few tears and some breast beating have persuaded the committee to give the dentist the benefit of the doubt, and the only person who could have hammered the final nail into his coffin is not here to speak up for himself.'