When you hear the words “medical malpractice,” what is the first thought that comes to mind? For most people, it probably is that a hospital or physician made a serious medical mistake. However, medical malpractice does not just cover physicians and their medical team, but dentists, too. And sometimes dentists can make tragic mistakes.
Just a few weeks ago, the family of a three-year-old girl filed a medical malpractice suit against their daughter’s dentist after a routine root canal procedure caused her to sustain permanent and severe brain damage and eventually die in hospice a month later. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.
Last November, the mother took her daughter to a pediatric dentist in their native town of Kailua, Hawaii. Although only three years old, the young girl needed several fillings and root canals. On December 3rd, the young girl returned for her procedure. At that time, her dentist administered a strong mix of five different sedatives and anesthesia. However, the girl’s vitals were not monitored afterward; rather she was left unattended for more than 25 minutes. This medical negligence caused the young girl to go into cardiac arrest and ultimately lapse into a non-responsive state. Additionally, because the dental staff was not prepared for it, the young girl did not receive immediate CPR and had to be rushed to a neighboring pediatric practice for emergency assistance.
The medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that as a consequence of the improper medication, incorrect dosage and delayed CPR, the young girl suffered irreversible and severe brain damage and remained in a “persistent vegetative state” for several weeks following her root canal procedure. Sadly, she remained in hospice care for a short time before eventually being taken off life support after doctors believed she would not recover from her significant injuries. The dental records obtained in connection with the medical malpractice lawsuit reveal that only three notes were made regarding the young girl’s vital signs during her dental procedure.
Whether it is a simple and routine dental exam or a complicated procedure involving anesthesia and other medications, all dental procedures carry a risk for injuries. Like any healthcare provider, dentists and their dental staff are held to a standard of care and carry a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of a patient. With this comes a duty to give adequate and proper consideration of how administered drugs interact with each other and how these drugs likely will interact with the specific individual.
This case serves as an important reminder that even the most seemingly routine procedures can carry fatal risks that may amount to medical negligence. While sometimes overlooked, dental anesthesia malpractice is common, and victims of such negligence have the right to receive fair and reasonable compensation for the harms suffered. If you believe your dentist has made a serious anesthesia mistake and you or a loved one has suffered a severe personal injury or even death, please contact one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys regarding your possible claim.