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#UrsinusSummer: Ethics and Dentistry

Can dentists reject patient care for any reason they choose? Min Son ’20 looks at the ethical implications in her summer fellows research


As she prepares for a future in dentistry, Min Son ’20 is developing a keen interest in ethics and the moral dilemmas prevalent in the industry. This summer, Son is focused on patient rejections and patient abandonment in dental practice. 

“Is it morally okay for dentists to reject people who come to their office and ask for treatment? Is it okay for dentists to reject patients during the process?” Son asks, adding, “I’m looking at many case studies and seeing what healthcare professionals and philosophers are saying about them. I’m also comparing dental business with other kinds of professions, specifically law, to determine differences in the code of conduct or code of ethics within the field of law versus dentistry.” 

The pre-dental student has shadowed several dentists and has gotten first-hand experience within the field. “I often hear about the importance of oral healthcare because it can relate to larger diseases such as heart disease, respiratory disease and gum disease. It makes me wonder about the obligations dentists have to provide treatment for their patients?” 

Some of the reasons that Son has found for dental professionals to refuse treatment have been anything from financial issues to patients simply being rude to their staff.