Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that a case filed by the parents of a teen who died after being deprived of oxygen during dental surgery recently settled out of court. The suit was filed against the anesthesiologist, oral surgeon, and medical practice, alleging negligence after they failed to revive the girl when her heart rate fell to dangerous levels.
The 17-year-old was undergoing routine oral surgery to remove her wisdom teeth when her heart rate began to fall. Her dangerously low heartbeat caused significant deprivation of oxygen to her brain. She did not have a pulse when emergency responders arrived at the Maryland office, which led to massive brain injury. She subsequently went into a coma for ten days and ultimately died. Her autopsy report stated that she indeed died from the lack of oxygen to her brain during the surgery, and that she was an otherwise healthy girl with no significant medical history.
The conditions and amount of the settlement were not made public, however, the court files show that her parents filed five counts of medical negligence along with other medical failures. Their lawsuit requested more than $30,000 for each of those five counts.
At the time of the filing, the teen’s mother stated that she wished to raise awareness of the very real dangers of dental procedures – particularly those that require anesthesia. She wants to make Americans aware that routine visits for dental care can turn out to be anything but. According to the Maryland chief medical examiner, the teen was given the standard dose of anesthesia, which did not put her fully under, so doctors administered additional medication.
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The president of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation affirmed that a patient’s breathing and oxygen levels should be constantly monitored even during routine procedures relating to anesthesia. This can be accomplished through medical equipment and careful observation. Should the patient’s levels be monitored properly, any signs of inadequate oxygenation would be evident and corrected before it caused cardiac arrest.
The girl’s mother has been in contact with the Raven Maria Blanco Foundation, which advocates on behalf of dental safety. The foundation’s website lists more than 35 children who have died during dental-related procedures.
Too often, dental offices allow unlicensed employees to perform anesthesia sedation, which carries extreme risks even when administered by certified anesthesiologists. These risks include allergic reactions, cardiovascular incidents, respiratory depression, stroke, and brain injury. Further intensifying the dangers is that most dental offices are not equipped with emergency equipment that could have potentially saved the life of the Maryland teen.
Unfortunately, dentist offices carry risks other than those associated with anesthesia. Recently in suburban Oklahoma, for example, about 7,000 dental patients of one office were forced to get tested for possible HIV and hepatitis exposure. State health officials and investigators stated that the W. Scott Harrington office was allowing unlicensed employees perform IV sedation, and found numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues. They also found the drug lockers to be unlocked and unattended, with medications long past their expiration date. Neither were there any inventory logs for the drug cabinet, and one medication they found expired in 1993.
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The investigation was sparked when one of the patients contracted hepatitis C. Harrington’s office was known to have a high number of HIV-and hepatitis-positive patients because he accepted Medicaid for oral surgeries and patients were often transferred there from ER departments. Investigators found that he was performing these procedures using unsterile and rusted tools. Even the device that sterilizes tools was not cleaned properly. They are supposed to be cleaned each month. The one in Harrington’s office had not been cleaned in at least six years.
Dental malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight this story to heighten awareness of the dangers of dental procedures. Similar to medical doctors, dentists and anesthesiologists are expected to adhere to a high standard of care for their patients. If a doctor deviates from that standard, and the patient is consequently injured, they reserve the right to file a malpractice claim against the negligent parties. Our attorneys have decades of experience with these types of cases, and always fight to ensure our clients have the best representation and receive the highest possible settlement.