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Anyone ever have to get police involved with a patient?

We had a terrible situation at work this week. The other hygienist and I were seeing 2 teen patients ages 13 and 17. Their mom (a non-patient) brought them and was undeniably impaired, slurring her words, stumbling down the hallway, being very loud. She sat in the reception area during her son’s appointments and our front desk person verified what we saw. After cleanings were done but before the exams, the other hygienist and I confronted the Dr and told him that she was not capable of driving them home. We had each asked without knowing the other was asking their patient if the 17 year old had driven them there but unfortunately he hadn’t. The Dr seemed reluctant to call the police especially when he asked if they could wait in the parking lot for her but they said they would need to come in to the office. I said that this must fall under our child abuse certification and that our responsibility was to protect our minor patients and the other hygienist felt the same way. He did allow the police to come inside and they did, questioned her, escorted her into the vestibule and deemed her impaired and not able to drive her children home. They were driven home by the police and she was taken elsewhere. She was yelling and made a big scene which was embarrassing to her children and stressful for all of us. The Dr in particular seemed torn about whether he did the right thing. I was certain we did the right thing but felt lousy for the rest of the day. Any thoughts or anyone been in a similar situation? I hope I won’t face this again but I would do the same thing. I would feel terrible if something bad had happened after they left our office.

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1 Answer

This is certainly a horrible situation to find yourself in! In my opinion, you and your co-workers absolutely did the right thing even though you or the doc may feel a bit lousy afterward. However, you’d feel a whole lot worse if later that night you saw a story on the news about a terrible accident about an impaired mother who left the dentist and no one from the dental office stopped her; then police came knocking on the office’s door. I’m not sure what state you are in, but many states have mandatory child-endangerment reporting laws and if it wasn’t reported by the doctor, his license could be in jeopardy. Not to mention that if they did get in an accident the police investigation, possible charges against the doctor for not reporting, and press could take down the practice. So again, I truly believe the right thing was done here. Remember too, that while the kids were embarrassed, they were voiceless and by your office calling the police, you gave them a voice. A voice that may have saved their lives. If you are going to feel bad, feel bad for the kids for their mother putting them in danger, but not for reporting the mother!

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