A dispute over the amount of pain killers necessary to treat a dental patient opened testimony Tuesday in a licensing hearing over charges that twin brother dentists Kent and Brent Hansen traded drugs for sexual favors from a patient.
The Hansens' attorney Jackson Howard said "a school of thought" in the dental profession believes that if the pain is genuine, no amount of drugs can turn the patient into an addict.But Dr. C. Michael Fitzgerald, the state's expert witness against the Hansens' methods of dental treatment, said he knows of no such school of thought or any studies that back up the claim. When asked if he knew of any dentists who believe drugs won't become addictive if they are needed, Fitzgerald said, "Only two."
The Hansens have been accused by the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing of sexual misconduct, performing substandard dental care, over-prescribing drugs and defrauding Medicaid.
Following this week's hearing before the state Dentists and Dental Hygienists Board, the six-member board will determine whether the Hansens should be allowed to continue practicing or have their licenses to practice and prescribe medicine revoked, suspended or restricted in some way. The Hansens have practices in Midvale and Spanish Fork.
Fitzgerald, a dentist and director of the State Health Department's Dental Health Bureau, reviewed the files of 16 patients of the Hansens for the division. He took the stand Monday to explain his examination of the Hansens' treatment of several patients.
Describing himself as "a kind and gentle person" and saying "I don't like to accuse people of anything," Fitzgerald said the Hansens' prolonged treatment of root canals and prescribing powerful, addictive pain killers "stretched the imagination."
"In this case I can't find a scenario explaining why treatment took so long and why the patient would put up with it," Fitzgerald said, concerning one patient's records.
But in cross-examining Fitzgerald Tuesday, Howard said dentists don't choose their patients. "Frequently dentists get an addict. You can't exclude them," Howard said, later adding that if a patient is allergic to all but the strongest of pain killers it can put the dentist "between a rock and a hard place."
Fitzgerald responded that there are alternatives.
In his opening statement, Howard said his clients were seduced by the "womanly wiles" of a patient who was addicted to drugs. The state contends, however, that the Hansens recklessly turned the patient into a drug addict and started the cycle of trading drugs for sexual favors from the patient.
Howard took exception to Fitzergerald's conclusion that failed root canals performed by the Hansens shouldn't have occurred. During questioning, Fitzgerald acknowledged that he didn't know how many other root canals the Hansens performed and that the success rate of root canals is typically 97 percent to 98 percent.
Howard also challenged Fitzgerald's qualifications to judge adequate treatment, noting the fact that Fitzgerald hadn't performed a root canal in four years and only sees patients twice a week.