Child’s root canal ends in brain injury, death and lawsuit

Although Chicago patients know dentists are doctors, they often separate the profession from physicians who work on other parts of the human body. Consequently, a dentist probably isn’t the first person to come to mind when you hear the term medical malpractice.

While Cook County residents may think of dentists separately from other doctors, patients still rely on quality treatment from all licensed, educated health care professionals.

The parents of a 3-year-old girl took their daughter to a Hawaiian dentist in November. Island Dentistry in Kailua specialized in children’s dental problems, and the child had a mouthful of them. A dentist said the 3-year-old required a half dozen fillings and extensive root canal work.

Endodontics is a specialized area of dentistry for tooth root and pulp work. The procedures may be lengthy and involved, although they are routinely performed in a dentist’s office. An in-office root canal was scheduled for December.

On the appointed day, the child was sedated, and according to a newly-filed lawsuit, left unmonitored for nearly half an hour. The girl’s parents said the child’s heart stopped beating under the effects of the wrong drugs and dosages. The dentist apparently had no plan in place to deal with the life-threatening condition.

The child was transferred to the pediatric unit of a hospital, where doctors learned the brain injuriesthe girl suffered under sedation were severe. By the end of the month, the child was placed in a hospice facility in a “vegetative state” from which she would not recover.

After the girl’s death in early January, the parents announced they would file a malpractice case against the dentist and Island Dentistry, the defendant’s now-closed practice. Charges include dangerous conduct and negligence. Compensation sought was not reported.

As with other claims, dental malpractice is proven by establishing negligence and a connection between the defendant’s behavior and a patient’s injuries or death.

Source: CNN, “Hawaii girl, 3, dies after dental procedure” Khushbu Shah, Jan. 05, 2014