Why You Shouldn’t Serve Alcohol to Your Patients

A Texas state senator proposes a bill to stop booze in the waiting room.

Are you one of the providers who serves waiting patients alcohol to ease anxiety? (1)  “We offer the beverages as part of our efforts to create a welcoming, boutique, spa-like environment in the office and make patients more comfortable,” said one New York provider. (2)  “We also provide cozy blankets for people while they get treatments and warm, scented towels to refresh their face and hands. Our patients love it,” he adds. (2).

But Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) thinks otherwise, calling the practice “appalling” and “irresponsible.”  Kolkhorst proposed a bill that would prohibit the practice and penalize violators. (1)  The bill, however, would only apply to Texas providers.

She says it’s “potentially dangerous” too. (3) “There’s nothing in the code that prevents [providers] from doing this, but I think it’s a line that we can’t cross,” said Kolkhorst. (1)  Drinking alcohol can cause heart arrhythmias, central nervous system depression, increased blood pressure, loss of coordination, and poor judgment, among other ailments. (4)

But with some providers and patients, the practice is popular.  One dental patient says he likes the unique approach.  “It’s an extra something that helps you dread the dentist a little less. I don’t know why more places don’t do it, quite frankly,” he says. (2)  “Hey, we’re nervous, why don’t we give a cold beer or glass of wine in the waiting room, and we said why not let’s try it,” echoes another provider. (2)

Boozing before a procedure may impair a patient’s ability to knowingly consent to treatment, which presents liability and legal concerns. (1)

Jackson LLP’s message to providers: Don’t do it – offer meditation instead.

Sources cited:

(1) Sabriya Rice, Drinks at the dentist’s office? Texas bill takes aim at boozy trend in medicine, Dallas News (Mar 11, 2017).

(2) Lizette Borelli, Dentists Pair Free Wine with Root Canal to Take Edge Off Patients, But is it Safe? (Jul 1, 2014).

(3) Ken Herman, Would You Like a Cold Beer with That Dental Crown? (Feb 4, 2017).

(4) WebMD,

The research and writing for this post was performed by Jackson LLP intern Caroline C., with supervision and review by attorney Connor Jackson.  Please reach out with questions!

This blog is made for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and the reader. It should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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