Failure to Review Medical History Blamed for Patient’s Death - $1 Million Settlement
The patient/plaintiff’s decedent, a man in his late sixties, presented to the defendant dental office for a routine biopsy and lip lesion extraction. The patient provided the dentist with a complete medical history that included a past heart attack.
Before the procedure, the patient’s vitals were taken, which showed low blood pressure and low oxygen saturation. Despite these findings, the dentist put the patient under general anesthesia. Shortly after the patient received the sedation medications, he went into respiratory failure. When the patient started having respiratory issues, the dentist left the patient alone in the room and went to the front office to ask for a staff member to call 911 and for another staff member to come help him administer CPR. The patient went into cardiac arrest in transit to the hospital, where the patient died three days later.
The plaintiff, the patient’s surviving spouse, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant dentist and his practice. The plaintiff alleged the dentist failed to consider the patient’s previous medical history, which included cardiac issues and sleep apnea, when the dentist decided to sedate the patient. The plaintiff further claimed the dentist failed to properly monitor the patient while under anesthesia and failed to properly respond once the patient began exhibiting signs of respiratory distress. The plaintiff also claimed emotional distress because she was allowed to come into the room with the patient and witness his respiratory failure until emergency personnel arrived.
The defendant dentist denied any wrongdoing. However, defense experts could not justify the dentist administering sedation medications to the patient despite his medical history and vitals taken before the procedure. Additionally, as a dentist providing general anesthesia services, the defendant was held to a higher level of knowledge and skill. Dentists with a similar level of skill and experience are expected to manage medical emergencies and to be conversant with more advanced resuscitation techniques due to the additional training that they are required to undergo by many states’ dental boards.
The case ultimately settled for nearly $1 million in favor of the plaintiff.
Case study reproduced with permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.
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