Checkups, Fillings and HIV?

If you were here, get the test! (courtesy of CBS News)

I tell you what. If I were a former patient of Tulsa, Oklahoma dentist W. Scott Harrington, I would be meeting with my lawyer right about now.

On March 20th, 64-year-old Harrington—an oral surgeon with more than 35 years of experience—was forced to surrender his dental license after investigators found evidence of all sorts of infractions.

I use the word infractions because that’s the term being tossed around in the media. A more suitable word would likely be crimes.

At the top of the list is a word you should never hear in association with health care and the field of medicine: contamination. The state’s dental board discovered multiple sterilization and cross-contamination issues in Harrington’s office. And health investigators are contacting roughly 7,000 former patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis and even HIV.

Not what you expect when you go to have your teeth cleaned, is it?

Investigators also found problems with the medicine being stored and supplied by Harrington. For starters, there was no inventory log for any of the drugs he used. Some of the drugs in his cabinets were long expired—the earliest dating as far back as 1993.  And Harrington also administered morphine to patients through 2012, even though his last recorded delivery of the drug was 2009!

What a jackass. But there’s more.

From what I understand, none of the dental assistants working in Harrington’s office had permits, which must have been nice since they probably had free access to any drugs in the cabinet, too.

Aside from the whole “I might be infected with hepatitis or HIV” thing—which is certainly the most disturbing part of all of this—I was also shocked to hear an account from a teenage boy who once visited Harrington to have some molars removed.

At one point during the procedure, the boy awoke to find himself more-or-less covered in blood. He freaked out, but was told to “shut up” and to keep holding the gauze in place.

And that’s not even the worst of it.

The next time this young man awoke, he was tied up on the floor. The staff would later claim that he became a problem and had to be restrained, but he knew the truth.

“I felt when I got out of there and went through all I went through,” he recounted later. “I felt they didn’t know much of what they were doing at all.”

Harrington back in the day (courtesy of FOX 6 NOW)

This poor guy went through a lot, to be sure, and now he’s got this hepatitis-HIV scare to worry about, too. What luck. If I were him, Harrington would definitely be hearing from my lawyer, as I mentioned before.

Investigations are still underway and people all over the state are being tested, at the state’s expense, I might add. Harrington faces 17 violations and could have his license revoked as a result, but I don’t think that even comes close to being a suitable punishment.

If you ask me, Harrington should face criminal charges for knowingly and willingly endangering the lives of his patients. We’re talking about a dentist—albeit a very bad dentist—with over 35 years of experience. If anyone thinks he wasn’t aware of his out-of-date drugs, dirty equipment and hack-job procedures, think again. This man received his license and had it regularly renewed, for goodness sake!

I don’t know what will happen, of course. And in all likelihood, Harrington will get only a slap on the wrist, at least from the medical establishment. But I tell you this: I hope the civil lawsuits from patients—especially those who actually contracted hepatitis or HIV from his office—come raining down and help guarantee this man never practices dentistry again.

Posted on March 30, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I heard that he Willingly gave up his License, and he wasn’t forced. Either way though, he doesn’t have it now! I hope all his patients are okay and/or will be okay!

    • It’s possible that’s true, pangirl, but they likely would have taken it anyway. Either way, you’re right. At least this can’t happen anymore, at least with him. Thanks for the comments and happy Easter!

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