Good Essay On Ethical Issue In Dentistry
Misleading dental advertisements are one of the most rampant ethical issues in the dentistry practice. Misleading advertisements offer the wrong information to consumers with the aim of coercing them to buy products and services offered by the dental professionals. This is an unethical practice and the dentists involved undermine the integrity of the dental profession. This paper looks at ethical issues in dentistry. It gives special emphasis to misleading dental advertisements as an ethical issue. The paper also looks at the legal definition of misleading advertisements and dissects the legal frameworks and the regulatory bodies put in place to protect the consumers from misleading advertising in the United States of America. The paper also looks at similar legislations in other parts of the world with Canada and Australia as case examples. Finally, the paper looks at some recent cases of misleading dental advertisements and outlines the effects of such misleading advertisements and the dentists involved to the integrity of dental profession.
Keywords: ethical issues, misleading advertisements, code of conduct, morals
An ethical issue is a matter or a concern that presents an individual with choices or alternatives that stand to be judged and evaluated as to whether they are right or wrong. This kind of evaluation has its basis on a set of moral codes. These moral codes are norms that regulate behaviour of a society; they dictate what the society regards as right and what it regards as wrong. In professional practice, this set of rules and regulations is the code of conduct. The code of conduct outlines the requirements of practice in a profession and the standards under which the professionals should restrict themselves to in order to be right in the eyes of the society. The society considers any practice that is in contradiction with the laid code of conduct as unethical. In healthcare, any professional participating in unethical practices undermines the integrity of the practice and this leads to an ineffective system due to the loss of the trust of the society that is the consumer of the services provided by the healthcare system.
One of the most rampant cases of unethical issues in the dentistry practice is misleading dental advertisements. According to Lloyd Duhaime, a renowned consumer law expert and attorney, a misleading advertisement is a false or wrong depiction of a product or even a service to the consumer. In other words, a misleading advertisement is any promotional material intended to encourage the use of a product of a service by providing false attributes about the product or the service in order to make it more appealing to the potential customers. For instance, in dentistry, a toothpaste advertisement may claim that it whitens stained teeth in a week. However, on using the product and failing to achieve the promised results, a customer becomes a victim of a misleading advertisement.
Misleading advertisements are unethical because they dupe the consumers to purchase products or subscribe to services in the pretence of providing results but they do not deliver the promised results. A dentist may be involved in misleading advertisements in three ways. First, the dentist may advertise his services to the patient and make claims on qualifications not yet earned. This qualifies as misleading advertisement because it makes false claims on the academic qualifications of the dentist to attract more clients. This is selfish and it undermines the integrity of the dental profession.
Secondly, a dentist is involved in the development of a dental product especially during the clinical trials. During this stage of product development, the input of the dentist is required to assess the effectiveness of the product and safety. The release of a product into the market commences upon testing and approval by the professional dentist. If the dentists involved mislead the public into believing that the product is safe and effective, either for malicious reasons or due to negligence, it compromises the integrity of the dental profession.
Lastly, a dentist may be involved in misleading advertisements through endorsements of products. This may be through direct participation in the advertisement in the media or by recommending the product to patients based on false information given by the manufacturer. All these practices mislead the patients and they undermine the integrity of the dental profession because the claims have their basis in false premises. The dentists involved in such unethical practices undermine the integrity of the dental profession. This is because they act as representatives of the whole profession and they paint it in bad light. Consequently, the public judges the dental practice based on such practices and this has a negative effect to the reputation and the integrity of dentistry.
Misleading dental advertisements are unethical and illegal in Britain and in the rest of the world. The General Dental council (GDC) is the body that regulates dental practice in Britain. Through its guidelines, which it revises accordingly with time to combat new challenges in professional dental practice, the General Dental Council outlines the code of conduct of the dentists to uphold the integrity of dental practice in Britain. In its 2012 publication, the GDC appreciates that the dentists are entitled to advertise their services but at the same time maintains that there is need for oversight on what should and should not be included in the promotional material.
The most recently published set of guidelines was in March 2012. The spirit of the guidelines by the General Dental Council is that all advertisements should uphold clarity, decency, legality, currency and truthfulness. Clarity is essential to ensure that the advertisements do not coerce the patients into making choices but rather they make informed choices on their preferred dental practitioner or product. Legality ensures that all dental practices are within the law to avoid legal conflicts. Currency ensures that the consumers get up to date solutions for efficiency.
While it is legal for dentists to advertise their services in Britain, the GDC guidelines have measures that forbid misleading advertisements. It is a requirement for all practicing dental practitioners to obtain a GDC number that should accompany their advertisements. This makes it easy for the patients to authenticate the dental practitioners. This form of regulation ensures that only the qualified dentists get to offer their services to the patients. The GDC guidelines maintain that the language used in dental advertisements should be simple for the patients to understand. The advertisers are also required to avoid ambiguity in the dental advertisements.
In addition, GDC forbids the advertisers from using assertions that will probably raise the expectations of the patients to a level that the product cannot achieve. To guarantee this, the GDC requires scientific factual backing on all claims made in the advertisements. The GDC works with other regulatory bodies to ensure professionalism in dental practice. This includes regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Association (ASA). Any departure from the provisions by the GDC is a criminal offence that is punishable by law. The penalties for such crimes include but are not limited to the suspension and the revocation of the license of the culpable dentist. The guidelines issued by GDC are harmonised with the regulations in the larger European Union.
Different nations over the world have their customised regulatory bodies and legislations that oversee the professional dental practice. However, there is consensus across all legislations that all dental advertisements should be candid and clear. In Canada, The Competition Act forbids any form of deceptive advertisement. In Australia, the dental board of Australia is responsible for auditing and regulating the dental profession. In the United States of America, the American dentists association (ADA) has set guidelines that regulate dentistry practice in the United States of America. The American dentists’ association code of conduct lays down these provisions. All these provisions ensure the maintenance of professionalism in dental practice.
There have been numerous cases of misleading dental advertisements in the history of dental practice. These cases span from the advent of the use of toothpastes in the early 1990s. The consumers have seen the transition from the use of powders initially to the use of toothpaste formulations all promising to achieve outrageous results. Misleading advertisements have been rampant during this period as more products enter the market.
A recent case of a misleading advertisement is a 2012 advertisement by the Colgate Palmolive Company regarding one of their toothpastes known as Colgate Total. In the television advertisement, the company claimed that this product has received support from the nurses association for its bacteria fighting properties. However, this was false and it attracted the attention of the Advertising Standards Association (ASA). This was unethical because the product in question did not have backing from all nurses hence it would mislead the consumer into using the product based on that false assertion. The dentists involved in the development and the marketing of this product undermined the integrity of the dental practice because they betrayed the trust of the public in the profession.
In another recent case, the ASA banned an advertisement by the Unilever Company regarding one of their toothpaste brands. In the advertisement, Unilever claimed that after three days of using the said product, three quarters of the tooth enamel would grow back. According to Unilever, there was clinical trials data to back this up. However, this was a false claim and it led to the banning of the advertisement. This event tarnished the professional dental practice in the public eye because it made unsubstantiated claims. The dentists involved undermined the integrity of dental practice by lying to the public and betraying the public trust.
In conclusion, misleading dental advertisements constitute a major ethical issue in the dental profession. The public accords practitioners in the dental profession immense trust. The society gives them many privileges since it expects them to be candid at all times. Due to this, the society rarely questions their opinions and assertions. In return, the dental practitioners owe the public the truth in all elements of their practice. They are bound to maintain the highest level of ethical principles in their practice. Any unethical practice such as misleading dental advertisements paints a bad image of the dental profession. The dental practitioners cannot afford to lose the public trust, as this would render their services ineffective since the consumers will always be suspicious and dissatisfied. The dentists involved greatly undermine the integrity of the dental profession. Therefore, there is need for all practitioners in the dental profession to be ethical in their practice to maintain public trust and uphold the integrity of the dental practice.
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