Chemically dependent doctors.

G. T. Chiodo, S. W. Tolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Overcoming denial and admitting to having a chemical dependency problem is a hurdle that is extraordinarily difficult for anyone to handle without professional assistance. Addicted health care professionals often become even more deeply enmeshed in denial of their problem. They refuse help because they see themselves as educated beyond the level of those who are attempting to help them, and because they fear professional humiliation. Dental professionals who become aware of a colleague's chemical dependence, have an ethical duty to intervene in a constructive way. Reporting to a dental society wellness committee will accomplish this goal while protecting patients, the profession, the addicted provider, and the provider's family. Nonetheless, assisting chemically dependent colleagues to seek treatment can be an enormous burden. Thus, the dental hygienist in the case presented has few choices. She clearly has sufficient evidence of the dentist's chemical dependency problem and, ethically, she must act to prevent harm to patients. If a wellness program is available, it will help her. However, she should not expect gratitude from the dentist at the time of her intervention. Addicted persons rarely thank those who try to help them until much later and whistle-blowers are rarely appreciated. As is often the case, doing the right thing may be a challenge that risks losing a relationship or, as in the case presented, a job.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-534, 536, 538
JournalGeneral dentistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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