It started with a Viewpoint in the October 1995 issue of Dental Economics. Regular contributor Dr. John L. Kennedy of Albuquerque asked, "Are We Playing To Win or Playing To Keep From Losing?" Dr. Kennedy questioned why the ADA had not supported dentists who had challenged the Americans With Disabilities Act and who were litigation targets of the U.S. Attorney General`s office. A ground swell of comment followed. The subject was now out in the open. Many dentists voiced frustration with the limitations placed on them by the Americans With Disabilities Act`s interpretation of patients with infectious diseases being categorized as disabled, which limits dentists use of professional discretion regarding how to best treat these patients. The prosecution of Dr. Drew Morvant in Louisiana and Dr. Randall Bragdon in Maine shouted the government`s position, unchallenged by the ADA, that, if you go beyond "normal" in providing or recommending extra precautions, you may be medically correct, but you are guilty of discrimination.
In the following months, letters from readers, ADA officers and trustees, editorial comments by myself and another eloquent Viewpoint by Dr. Kennedy, "Preserve the Freedom of Choice," spurred debate through the pages of Dental Economics and, more importantly, moved dentists to discuss the issue with their ADA delegates and trustees.
Robert Gherardi, DDS, ADA delegate from Albuquerque, was one who paid particular attention and, in a letter published in April, he asked readers to let their ADA delegates know if they would support a resolution asking the ADA to re-evaluate the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to infectious disease.
The lone voices of a few turned into a river of comment that indicated strong support for the ADA to challenge the interpretations that hamstring dentists. The comments also indicated a strong conviction on the part of many dentists that the ADA should support Dr. Randy Bragdon, who had been a "lone soldier," but who had vowed to appeal the ruling against him. I am pleased to relate that the ADA has joined Dr. Bragdon in his appeal. The ADA legal department filed a "Brief of the Amicus Curiae" on his behalf. It is an eloquent document that may well lead to a reversal of the summary judgment against Dr. Bragdon.
The ADA is charged to challenge current interpretations, but there is no guarantee that any action will successfully change the regulatory bondage. But the message is that big things can happen when just causes are championed with dignity. Those raindrops on the desert in New Mexico turned into a river of support in Orlando. Congratulations to those who adhered to the effort and to the readers who added their voices to the cause. Without all of you, there would not have been enough current to sustain the flow that culminated in the passing of Resolution 101.