Alleged Failure to Diagnose Squamous Cell Cancer - Death - Defense Verdict

The plaintiff’s decedent, a 62 year-old woman, presented to the defendant dentist in July with complaints of a severe toothache on the lower left side of her mouth. Defendant diagnosed her with severe periodontal disease and concluded that the tooth in question needed to be extracted. Upon return to defendant’s office, it was discovered that decedent had external swelling on her lower jaw. Defendant was uncomfortable with performing an extraction because of potential infection. Therefore, she prescribed an antibiotic and referred decedent to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon diagnosed decedent with severe periodontal disease. He performed the extraction of one tooth. During the procedure, an adjacent tooth simply fell out with no intervention. The oral surgeon sent a letter to defendant’s office advising that he had performed the extraction, but did not mention the second tooth had fallen out. The decedent never returned to defendant’s office.

The following May, the decedent presented to a different oral surgeon, who extracted another tooth on her lower left jaw. He found necrotic tissue attached to the tooth, and ultimately diagnosed decedent with Stage 4 oral squamous cell cancer. Decedent underwent surgery in June to remove the cancer. She subsequently had several courses of radiation and chemotherapy. However, less than two months after completing treatment, decedent died.

Plaintiff alleged defendant was negligent in failing to suspect oral cancer. Plaintiff alleged defendant should have performed a biopsy or referred decedent for a biopsy. Plaintiff also alleged defendant was negligent in failing to follow up with the decedent after her treatment by the oral surgeon. Defendant denied fain below the standard of care and denied allegations.

The jury returned a defense verdict.

With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.