Power of Attorney..
29 July 2019

Club member John O’Neill was speaker on 29th July and took as his topic ‘Power of Attorney’. This was taken in the context of John’s professional work as a dentist.

A very interesting talk covered the ways in which legislation has, especially in more recent times, changed the demands on dental professionals to be absolutely clear that informed consent is given for any dental work performed. This is particularly critical when work is carried out on patients affected by dementia - work that, because of the dementia, is inherently more difficult.

John made clear that nothing has changed in the professional duty of dentists only to carry out work that is necessary and to recommend only the most appropriate treatments. What has changed however is the legal requirement to be able to demonstrate that informed consent is received. The ‘Adults With Incapacity Act, 2000’ poses the question ‘are people able to give consent?’

We heard that increased longevity and the probability of more years with some form of incapacity, is an underlying factor in the changes being seen. This factor is also reflected in the nature of patients in care homes - where the conditions for carrying out dental treatments are not ideal. John quoted the interesting statistic that, in 1981, some 85% of pensioners had false teeth - whereas today a high proportion have all, or at least some, of their own teeth - which will require dental services.

The talk covered much additional detail of the way in which the dental profession is responding. However, the strong message was that it is important that clear decisions can be made on behalf of patients when needed - in other words - who has authority to make such decisions. John strongly suggested that, in such circumstances, Power of Attorney was extremely important, and should cover financial, medical and welfare guardianship aspects.

Altogether a most interesting talk that addressed an increasingly important topic. Following many questions, a vote of thanks was proposed by Charles Thrower. 

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