A 14-month-old girl from Texas died on March 29, 2016, two hours after she underwent a Texas anesthesia dental procedure. A relative of the little girl alleges that the child was brought to the dentist office to have a cavity filled and was placed under anesthesia in the dental office, at the recommendation of the dentist. During the dental procedure, the girl stopped breathing, an ambulance was called, and she was transported to the hospital, where she was declared dead within two hours. An autopsy was conducted but the results have not been disclosed.
The child’s aunt stated on behalf of the grieving family, “Daisy [the child] was a happy baby full of life. She had just celebrated Easter with her family. She went to the dentist. Then her mother called me and asked me to pray because something went wrong and they were taking her to the hospital. Next thing we know, we’re planning funeral arrangements.”
Late last year, the The Dallas Morning News reported on its 18-month investigation into dental patient deaths in Texas, finding that at least 85 dental patients had died in Texas since 2010. For every dental patient in Texas who died, approximately six were hospitalized and survived. However, Texas does not count dental deaths in its statistics if they are first reported by someone other than the dentist.
The causes of the dental deaths included over-sedation, inhaling objects, bleeding, facial fires, monitoring failures, emergency response failures, accidental violence, deliberate violence, unsterilized equipment, and intoxicated dentists. Texas is the only U.S. state that requires dentists to both report deaths that may be related to dental treatment within 72 hours and produce a detailed accounting of such dental-related deaths (all but three U.S. states require dentists to report some deaths).
Only about 8% of dental deaths in Texas resulted in some disciplinary action by the dental board (not including several dental-related deaths that remained under investigation).
The Dallas Morning News also found that state dental boards in the United States took public actions against dentists in connection with at least 57 deaths, from 2010 through 2014. A review of the disciplinary records for those deaths found that about 75% of the deaths were related to sedation issues and most of the deaths involved adults.
In New York, dental malpractice insurers reported that they made malpractice payouts in dental malpractice death cases for 31 dentists from 2004 through 2013, yet none of those dentists were disciplined for the dental-related deaths.
The Dallas Morning News found that “dangerous dentists” are able to move from state to state and dental patients are unaware of the past history of dentists who have been disciplined for professional misconduct.
If you or a family member may be the victim of dental malpractice in Texas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a dental malpractice attorney in Texas or a dental malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your dental malpractice claim for you and represent you in a dental malpractice case, if appropriate.
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