The news is shocking. A 4 year-old boy went to the dentist for what appears to be a fairly routine procedure and winds up dying. Obviously, his family and their lawyer want answers. This appears to be a senseless death and a lawsuit will be filed shortly, according to the malpractice attorney representing the deceased child and his family.
As an experienced dental malpractice attorney in Georgia, I am at a loss to explain this tragic result. While I do not have any information or reason to believe that these types of actions were involved in the above tragedy, I receive many calls from parents who complain that they are strong-armed into getting, what they later consider to be unnecessary dental treatment on their very young children. Often, they relay to me after the fact that they took their baby to a dentist ‘s office that specializes in children’s dentistry and are told that their child needs multiple fillings on baby teeth, that the child must be put under anesthesia to perform the fillings, AND that the procedure has already been started. Every parents worst nightmare. This is an atrocity that should not be tolerated, yet this is apparently standard operating procedure at some pediatric dental offices that specialize in children’s dental care and who prey on the poor and uninformed. To be sure, this is not done at every office, and some children’s dental offices practice in an ethical and professional manner, but, once again, others do not.
According to a preliminary report from the medical and dental records the child may have had inadequate oxygen during a dental procedure and, in turn, the lack of oxygen caused an irregular heart rhythm which led to no pulse. The pediatric dental office that was providing the dental care to the child performed CPR until EMT’s arrived and the child was transported to the hospital where he died later that evening. While this certainly addresses the immediate causes of death, other inquiries should be: (1) what was the overall health of the child; (2) did he actually need the procedures that were performed on him on the day that he died. Considering that these were baby teeth, was it really required that he have major dental procedure at this age?; (3) did the procedure in question, if they were medically necessary, require general anesthesia or could local anesthesia have been used?; (4) what protocols were in place at the dental office to make sure the proper anesthesia was used, the proper monitoring during anesthesia was performed and what was to be done if complications, such as those that occurred in this case, were encountered and were they followed in this case?.