Posted on Sep 01, 2023

Christian Gordon entrusted her three-year-old son Owen Fields to a dental clinic in Hilton Head for a routine dental procedure. Although Owen appeared healthy and had no known allergies, he lost his life in what was supposed to be a minor surgical procedure. The situation has left his family seeking answers and raising broader questions about the safety and regulatory oversight of dental procedures involving anesthesia.

Owen was there to have four teeth removed and six crowns placed. He was put under general anesthesia, a practice that hundreds of thousands of American children undergo each year, with few complications. Yet, minutes after arriving in the recovery room, Owen's health deteriorated rapidly. Despite immediate medical intervention, he went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.

The state has mandated that any surgery center report such incidents. However, the Surgery Center of Hilton Head did not follow this protocol, resulting in an ongoing child fatality investigation.

The dental regulatory landscape adds to the complexity of cases like these. Different state agencies regulate dental facilities and hospitals, despite dental procedures being carried out in both settings. This further confuses reporting requirements and hampers any cohesive, state-level oversight.

As Owen's family waits for answers, the event forces a reexamination of protocols in dental surgeries involving anesthesia. Experts suggest that the anesthesia team should have specialized pediatric training to adequately assess risks. Seemingly minor respiratory issues in children can quickly escalate into life-threatening complications, particularly when anesthesia is involved. Therefore, the judgment call of whether to proceed with the surgery or reschedule it carries significant weight.

Owen's autopsy revealed that he had died of pneumonia with sudden cardiac arrest following the dental procedure. His death not only underscores the urgent need for better data tracking and regulatory oversight but also serves as a heartbreaking reminder to all parents. With ongoing investigations and renewed discussions among medical professionals, one can only hope that such tragedies will become increasingly rare in the future.

Pursuing a Wrongful Death Case After a Child Dies as a Result of a Dental Procedure

The loss of a child is an unimaginable tragedy, made all the more devastating when it occurs under circumstances that should have been safe, such as during a dental procedure. Families in this difficult situation may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. This article aims to shed light on what legal steps you may consider should you find yourself in this grievous situation.

Establishing Grounds for a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim is predicated on the notion that a person's death was caused due to another party's negligence or misconduct. To have a successful wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove:

  1. Duty of Care: The dentist owed the deceased a duty of care.
  2. Breach of Duty: The dentist failed to meet the standard of care.
  3. Causation: The breach directly resulted in the death.
  4. Damages: Monetary damages ensued as a result.

Finding the Right Legal Representation

Finding an attorney well-versed in wrongful death cases related to dental procedures is crucial. They can help investigate the situation, compile evidence, and formulate an effective legal strategy.

Investigating the Circumstances

It's essential to investigate all contributing factors that could have led to the tragedy. This could include:

  • Malpractice;
  • Failure to properly sterilize dental tools;
  • Anesthesia complications.

Calculating Damages

In a wrongful death claim, families may be eligible to recover various types of damages:

  1. Medical Expenses: These can include the costs of the unsuccessful dental procedure as well as any post-operative care.
  2. Funeral Expenses: The cost of the funeral and burial.
  3. Loss of Income: If the child contributed to the family income or had income-earning potential.
  4. Non-Economic Damages: These include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.

Potential Challenges and Defenses

It's possible that the dental practitioner may argue that all protocols were followed and the death was an unavoidable accident. This is where having a robust legal strategy can make a difference.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

Timing is crucial when filing a wrongful death claim, as there are statutes of limitations that restrict the timeframe within which a lawsuit can be filed. Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible will help ensure you don't miss any crucial deadlines.


Pursuing a wrongful death case after a child dies due to a dental procedure is a complex and emotionally draining process. With the right legal guidance, you can navigate this difficult path and seek justice for your loved one. If you find yourself facing such a tragic circumstance, consulting with a seasoned wrongful death attorney can make all the difference in achieving a fair resolution.