There was a very interesting United States Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago. The case involves teeth whitening services. In North Carolina, non-dentists started to offer teeth whitening. This service was being done in beauty shops, shopping mall kiosks, and elsewhere. The North Carolina Dental Board sent out cease and desist letters stating that teeth whitening fell under the umbrella of “practicing dentistry” and therefore had to be performed by dentists.
The Federal Trade Commission brought a case against the North Carolina dental board for antitrust violations.
Essentially the question was, can a state agency such as a dental board, which has as its members, participants who have strong private interests in the outcome of their decisions be allowed to use their power to enhance their economic interests?
The dental board said that they are immune from antitrust allegations because they are essentially an instrument of the state of North Carolina, which is immune from antitrust law. The court said that the dental board, composed such as it is, is subject to the anti-trust laws unless the state actively supervises their decisions.
This certainly helps the position of those dentists who might be prosecuted by state boards for their positions, which are contrary to the American Dental Association. It will be much more difficult for a state board to harass holistic dentists.
In fact, when the state was trying to punish me for my education of patients concerning mercury in the mouth, root canals, etc., I sued the state on the grounds that it was unfair for the state dental board to sit in judgment of me. Why? Because they all belong to the American Dental Association and took an oath to uphold that association’s Code of Ethics, which said that, it was unethical to remove mercury fillings for reasons of health, and only ethical to remove mercury fillings for aesthetic reasons. This was self-serving and prejudicial. With the latest Supreme Court ruling, I guess I should have gone to federal court! In all honesty, I must tell you, that in reading the Supreme Court’s decision, both the majority and minority opinions, based on law I would have to agree with the minority.
This case must cause us to reflect on some basic questions.
Should we have regulating bodies such as a medical or dental board? If we do, who should serve on these boards? If dentists serve on dental boards and medical doctors serve on medical boards, any decisions they make will be suspect. Is the decision being made in their self-serving interests or in the interest of the public? If the state boards are composed of non-medical or non-dental persons, will they be better able to protect the public and fairly sit in judgment of the professionals? Or should the avenue of lawsuits simply protect the public? I would love to hear your thoughts.