When community members hear the word “malpractice” the mind almost always jumps to medical doctors and mistakes made by those working in the hospital. But malpractice cases can just as easily stem from misconduct by dentists and dental hygienists. There is often less serious ailments among dental patients, and so it is easy to overlook the fact that severe harm can still befall those who do not receive proper dental care. That is particularly true for the most vulnerable patients-young children. Serious injury and even death is sometimes possible when those working at dentists offices or orgal surgical centers fail to act appropriately.
Dental Malpractice – Wrongful Death
For example, San Antonio Express News reported last week on developments in a dental malpractice trial involving the tragic death of a twenty two month old child. The boy was just shy of his second birthday when he went in for what was supposed to be a routine dental procedure.
The boy went into the facility over two and a half years ago. The child woke up during the procedure crying and agitated. The mother explained that when her son seemed upset while in the facility, she called a nurse over. The nurse then injected something into the boy’s IV tube-the mother did not know what. About 10 minutes later, the child was showing signs of sleepiness. That is when the nurse gave a second dose.
The procedure was finished and the boy was sent home. The child’s grandmother was babysitting the baby that afternoon, when she called the mother voicing concerns that the child was still sleeping very heavily. Later the grandmother called again in a panic, explaining that she was giving the boy CPR, because he did not seem to be breathing.
The child was rushed to the emergency room while unconscious. Doctors did the best they could, but he was soon on life support. The boy was declared brain dead. He remained on life support for 15 days before he was removed from the mechanical devices and passed away.
The Legal Issue
The mother and father eventually contacted a lawyer who works on these cases to learn about their options. Eventually a dental malpractice case was filed. The trial concluded last week.
Originally the nurse who administered the morphine, the surgical center which employed the nurse, and the anesthesiologist were all named as defendants. However, the surgical center and nurse were not a party to the case which went to trial last week. In is unclear from news accounts if the other parties settled separately or if the matter was split into different actions.
In any event, at the trial the anesthesiologist admitted that the death was likely caused by an accidental overdose by the nurse. However, he is likely contesting his accountability for the nurse’s mistake. The plaintiffs are likely arguing the opposite-that the anesthesiologist was responsible for the boy’s overall well-being, even if he did not physically administer the drug. Instead, they claim that he likely acted negligently in not monitoring the boy’s overall condition, and ensuring he was safe before sending him home.
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