With thanks to Awash Prasad for drawing my attention to the recent decision Dental Board of Australia v Trijo  VCAT 558 (available on AUSTLII), which addressed the examination and treatment under general anaesthetic of patients with intellectual disability.
The conduct allegations focused on the dental treatment, over the space of a weekend, of five women with intellectual disability who lived in a supported residential service. The patients were unable to communicate and required a “person responsible” to make decisions about their medical or dental treatment.
The allegations were that the dentist failed to obtain informed consent; that she provided substandard treatment and care; that she failed to provide adequate follow-up care; that she adopted inappropriate billing practices; and that she failed to maintain adequate clinical records: see .
The dentist made a number of admissions including (at ) that she did not obtain informed consent from the person with legal authority to give consent. She conceded that she could not delegate to another person the obligation to obtain informed consent (at ).
The Tribunal commented (at ) that putting a genuine emergency to one side, a difficulty in ascertaining who is the person responsible would not absolve a health practitioner from his or her general legal obligations or from the specific obligations set out in the Board’s Code of Conduct.
The dentist was reprimanded; her registration be suspended for a period of three months; and conditions were imposed on her registration: see .