Children in Oregon and across the world are told every day that there is no reason to be scared of the dentist, and most of the time this is true. Normally, dental visits are some of the safest, least invasive medical procedures performed. Like any other medical field of practice, however, it is not without its risks, especially when anesthesia is involved. A family in another state has filed a medical malpractice claim after a 2-year-old child died following a dental procedure that may not have even been necessary.
The child had been taken to a dental office that was part of a large nationwide chain of dental practices. His family was told that he needed to have pulpotomies, or baby root canals, and crowns on his baby teeth. He was put under anesthesia, the procedure was performed and he was taken to recovery. The child never woke up. He was rushed to a local children’s hospital where he died four days later.
According to the lawsuit, numerous mistakes led to the child’s death. The business model of the dental group is said to maximize profits by selling procedures and minimizing the time spent on each patient. Because of this, two anesthetized children were laid on a dental chair at one time while the procedures were performed. When the procedure was finished, the 2-year-old was taken to recovery where he was hooked up to an empty or malfunctioning oxygen tank and left alone while the staff moved on to the next patient. Someone had silenced the alarm on his pulse oximeter, which was monitoring his pulse and oxygen saturation.
This dental group settled a separate lawsuit last year that has a sickening link to the child’s death. The Department of Justice asserted the company submitted fraudulent insurance claims and convinced patients to have unnecessary procedures. One of the main procedures in question was pulpotomies, the very procedure the 2-year-old died from.
This gut-wrenching story is an example of profits overruling patient care. It is not acceptable in Oregon or any other state. Patients that feel their health was compromised for the sake of money should contact a medical malpractice attorney. The focus must be on the patient’s well-being, not on tallying charges.