A former Massachusetts dentist, Michael Clair, pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud and a number of other charges stemming from allegations that he used paper clips while performing root canals instead of the stainless steel posts normally used. He will serve one year in jail. Medicaid reportedly suspended the 53 year-old dentist in 2002, but he continued to file claims under different names belonging to other dentists in his practice until 2005. Massachusetts suspended Clair’s dentistry license in 2006, and he is reportedly not currently licensed to practice in any state. He has resided in Maryland for several years.
Numerous patients also reported infections, pain, and other problems stemming from his treatments. One patient, a teenager, had to have his tooth removed after a root canal performed by Clair in 2005. The tooth turned black and caused him severe pain. The teen’s mother claimed that Clair also performed shoddy dental work on her other children.
Prosecutors accused him of defrauding Medicaid of around $130,000 for his claims made using other dentists’ names. They also charged him with assault and battery in connection with his root canal procedures and other practices, illegally prescribing medications, and witness intimidation. Clair reportedly pleaded guilty to all or most of the charges. Prosecutors had asked the court for a sentence of five to seven years. The judge sentenced him to one year in prison, citing Clair’s guilty plea and willingness to accept responsibility, his lack of a prior criminal history, and “certain mental health issues.” The judge did not elaborate on that last factor. Clair will serve his sentence at the Bristol County House of Correction in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Clair’s use of paper clips in root canals is a particularly egregious breach of the trust placed in dentists by the law and by society in general. Dentists, just like medical doctors and other medical professionals, undergo a considerable amount of training and education. As a result, they are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility over their patients. A dentist has a duty to provide diligent and competent service to all his or her patients, and to obtain informed consent for all treatments and procedures. A root canal, known more formally as endodontic therapy, is a complicated procedure. Few laypeople understand how the procedure works, and tend to trust dentists to perform the work. Using common items like paper clips in the procedure in place of specially-designed materials intended for the procedure puts patients at unreasonable risk of infection and worse. This is a clear breach of a dentist’s duty of care.
In Maryland, the State Board of Dental Examiners regulates the practice of dentistry. This includes overseeing licenses and handling complaints. People injured when a dentist provides substandard care may also be entitled to recover damages in the civil court system under a medical malpractice claim.
The Maryland injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen represent the rights of people who have suffered injury from malpractice by medical professionals. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or at (800) 654-1949.
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Washington DC Dentist Warns of Dangers of Sports Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2011
Medical Malpractice Survivors and Families Travel to Washington DC to Stand for Personal Injury Victims’ Rights, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 26, 2009
19-Year-Old Student Sues Howard University Hospital, GW Hospital, and Washington D.C. for Medical Malpractice and Negligence, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 23, 2007
Photo credit: dentist by piotr on stock.xchng.