No one thinks for a second that their trip to the dentist might result in serious injury, let alone death. Yet for one family what was supposed to be a routine oral surgery to get wisdom teeth taken out turned into an unimaginable tragedy. The family has since filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical professionals (an anesthesiologist and oral surgeon) involved in the botched operation.
According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, the 17-year old girl was a high school student who was active in the choir and well known in the community. Like many teens her age, she had a routine surgery planned to have her wisdom teeth removed. However, it did not go at all as planned.
The state’s chief medical examiner investigated the event and explained that the girl was first given an insufficient dose of anesthesia, because she was not deep enough for the procedure. Therefore, she was given more anesthesia by the doctor in charge of the process. Eventually, in the middle of the operation the young girl began to experience bradycardia-a slowing of the heart rate. Not long after that the oxygen levels in her blood began to drop, eventually sending her into hypoxic arrest caused by the oxygen deprivation. The doctors began emergency life support procedures, and emergency responders were eventually called. The emergency responders took about four minutes to regain a pulse. The girl was rushed to a local hospital where she eventually passed away while remaining in a coma. It was later learned that the girl suffered extensive damage to herbrain (hypoxic-ischmic encephalopathy) as well as severe swelling of the brain tissue.
The dental malpractice lawsuit cited the practitioner’s for negligence in failing to resuscitate the girl after her heart rate dropped to dangerous “panic” levels. Documents filed with the court in the case explain that the girl did not have a pulse when emergency responders arrived at the office. That delay ultimately led to the serious brain damage that caused her death a few days later. Investigations by county officials following the tragedy found that hypoxia-oxygen deprivation-was one of the central causes in her death. That hypoxia occurred while the girl was under anesthesia during the procedure.
Of course, during these procedures a patient’s breathing and oxygenation levels need to be constantly monitored. A pulse oximeter should be used in conjunction with “caregiver observation” to ensure that the patient does not experience problems like this while under anesthesia. With proper monitoring lack of oxygen would be noticed well before it caused actual cardiac arrest. The family decided to file the malpractice lawsuit after obtaining the autopsy report and learning more about the specific course of conduct that occurred while their daughter was undergoing the procedure.
The victim’s mother explained that her daughter’s death did not have to happen. She is working to raise awareness of dental-related death across the country. Our Chicago malpractice lawyers send sincere condolences to this family. These tragedies affect friends and family members for the rest of their lives, and everything must be done to demand accountability and ensure future victims are spared.
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