A Duty to Protect the Public
Part of the mission statement of the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners states: “…to protect the oral health, safety and welfare of Arizona citizens through a fair and impartial system.”
Part of the mission statement of the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners states: “…to protect the oral health, safety and welfare of Arizona citizens through a fair and impartial system.” If you check the mission statement of the Board of Dental Examiners for any state, you will likely see similar sentiment expressed. The board exists to serve the public and to protect them from incompetent and/or dangerous practitioners. And bravo, this is an important, necessary, and worthwhile function. Yet why does it seem that too many instances occur where a board fails to fulfill this mission? Why does it often appear that a board is protecting practitioners over patients? Case in point: A recent post on the Arizona Dental Hygienists’ Association Facebook page highlighted concerns about fraud and forgery committed by a Phoenix-area dentist, and how the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners refused to revoke his license.
Pankaj Goyal, DDS, was arrested and charged with two felonies related to forgery and fraud because he allegedly faked degrees and forged signatures to obtain a 1301 General Anesthesia permit. This permit allows the practitioner to administer general anesthesia and deep sedation. It is the highest level of anesthesia certification in the state of Arizona. Yet his dental license was not revoked or even suspended. The board did suspend his anesthesia permit, but this was after Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey intervened. Ducey wanted to know why the board failed to properly vet Goyal and if there were any past complaints, warnings, or actions against him. It turns out there had been multiple complaints dating back to 2014. However, when the board declined to suspend or revoke Goyal’s dental license, the chair challenged anyone to show “…that there is anything he’s doing in his practice that puts the public in immediate danger.” In other words, fraud, forgery, and lying about education and credentials are acceptable because, as far as we know, he hasn’t harmed anyone—yet.
This is just one incident, but I doubt it’s isolated. I recall a tragedy in Hawaii several years ago when a self-described children’s dentist caused an 8-year-old patient’s death due to anesthesia malpractice. Could this have been prevented? Because the review process for complaints is often confidential and records are not always available to the public, we don’t know. In fact, when Ducey requested additional documents from the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners about past warnings and complaints regarding Goyal, the executive director promptly retired. Governor Ducey has recommended that the Arizona Department of Health now take over the board’s executive duties. The governor tweeted: “Enough is enough. How long can this dentist continue practicing while serious allegations remain unanswered? It’s time for the board to suspend this individual’s license and get to the bottom of these issues. The board has an obligation to protect public safety. It’s time to act.”
At a time when state dental boards are fighting expanded roles for qualified oral health providers, such as dental hygienists, it’s ironic and frustrating that practitioners are not properly disciplined. And it’s inexcusable that further steps aren’t taken. It is, indeed, time to act.
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
To stay up to date on this story, visit ABC15.com/investigators and search for Dave Biscobing.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. September 2018;16(9):8.