Board in Oregon increases secrecy for disciplined dentists

PORTLAND, Ore. — It will soon be harder to track down the details of new disciplinary cases against dentists after the Oregon Board of Dentistry voted to remove the names of licensees it has disciplined from the board’s official newsletter.

Disciplinary information on an individual dentist can still be found online, but determining who has been recently disciplined will now take significantly more effort. It requires entering license numbers from the newsletter into the board’s online search function.

The vote is the state board’s latest flip-flop on an issue that divides the nearly 8,000 dentists and hygienists it regulates.

Critics said transparency is important for the public.

Board members who supported the change “just want to make it harder to find out who has discipline against them,” the board’s former president, Eugene dentist Norman Magnuson, told The Oregonian. “Those who have been disciplined don’t want their names out in the community.”

Backers of the change say disclosing the names of disciplined dentists serves no purpose.

“All it does is pour salt in the wound,” said board member Todd Beck, a Portland dentist who made the motion to remove names at the June 27 board meeting. “It’s just mean, it’s spiteful and it’s fodder for gossip.”

While the dentistry board’s meeting minutes will continue to include the names of dentists disciplined, they frequently include no information about what led to the discipline. In contrast, the board newsletters posted online summarized each case in an easily understandable way.

The newsletter goes to all licensees as well as 150 other people, according to the board.

James Morris, a member appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to represent the public, supported the move, saying naming names would “dilute the brand of licensees.”

The vote to remove names was not listed on the board’s public agenda. The decision pits the dentistry board practice against those of other state boards that routinely include the names of disciplined licensees in newsletters or in frequent discipline roundups posted online and sent out by email.

Ruby Jason, the executive director of the Oregon State Nursing Board, said the names of those recently disciplined are released because “the public has a right to know this information.”

“Yes, it is incredibly embarrassing” for those disciplined, she said. But “the state has given you your license. You have a public trust. … I personally believe (naming) is a deterrent.”

Assistant Attorney General Lori Lindley warned the board that pulling back from the transparency that’s standard at other professional regulatory boards could draw interest from the Legislature.

A group of dentists asked state lawmakers this year to increase secrecy surrounding disciplinary action, but lawmakers declined to do so.

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