Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, a Tulsa dentist and oral surgeon, may have exposed up to 7,000 patients to blood-borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Harrington and his staff reportedly failed to sterilize instruments and otherwise prevent infection. He's accused of violating several state and federal laws.
Shocking cases like this often lead to demands that government “do something.” Yet laws and regulations that Harrington apparently violated are already on the books. Greatly enhanced preventive efforts could require state surveillance on a scale almost unimaginable and potentially unaffordable for taxpayers.
Oklahoma has as many as 2,300 licensed dentists, with about 1,900 practicing. Yet the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry currently has only two investigators. Under state law, the board isn't allowed to investigate a dentist unless someone files a complaint. Some regulatory changes may be justified. But to conduct wide-scale, routine, random investigations of every dentist multiple times annually would require a dramatic increase in the number of investigators, along with corresponding taxpayer costs — either direct or indirect.