In the aftermath of a tragic incident involving the death of 17-year-old Christopher Power during a dental operation on April 22, 2016, the Florida Department of Health may be seeking the cancellation of the responsible dentist's license.
Young Christopher Power never regained consciousness following what was intended to be a simple dental surgery in 2016. The Power family is currently engaged in a civil lawsuit against Dr. Steven Baxter, the dentist who performed the surgery at Kissimmee Family Dentistry, as well as the practice's founder, Dr. C. Michael Turner. Christopher Power remained brain-dead for two days post-operation.
During the procedure, Dr. Baxter administered sedatives Midazolam and Demerol to Christopher for the extraction of eight teeth. During his deposition for the civil case, Dr. Baxter revealed that upon finding Power unresponsive, he checked for vital signs but could not detect any.
He also mentioned that an assistant, who was relatively new to the field and lacked formal training in conscious sedation, helped him monitor Power's vitals every five minutes. However, the assistant's experience came under scrutiny due to their trade school graduation and lack of expertise in sedation procedures.
Dr. Baxter also detailed the unsuccessful attempts to revive Power, which involved another dentist in the practice who provided resuscitation support and initiated an emergency 911 call.
Dr. Baxter has since left Kissimmee Family Dentistry, and currently practices in an Orlando-based dental office. He has also secured a provisional license to practice in Ohio under conditions that prevent him from applying for sedation or anesthesia permits.
The Florida Department of Health has filed an administrative complaint against Dr. Baxter, asserting that he did not provide immediate CPR and failed to maintain essential written records, including a risk assessment and baseline vital statistics of the patient. Dr. Baxter counters these allegations by asserting that he and his assistant did monitor Power's vitals at regular intervals during the procedure.
Florida regulations allow general dentists to conduct surgeries under sedation after only a brief period of additional training, without the presence of a trained anesthesiologist. Dr. Baxter had assured Power's parents prior to the surgery that the procedure was of low risk, citing temporary pain and swelling as the only expected post-operative symptoms.
An Osceola County judge recently rejected a request to exempt Kissimmee Family Dentistry and Dr. Turner from liability in the ongoing civil case. Though Dr. Baxter is disputing the administrative complaint's charges, a hearing date remains undetermined.
Administrative Complaint, Case Number: 2016-13649
The administrative complaint in this matter states that the dentist violated Section 466.028(1)(gg), Florida. Statutes, by his failure to meet the requirements of Rule 64B5-14.009, Florida Administrative Code, when he administered conscious sedation on or about April 22, 2016, in one or more of the following ways:
- By failing to keep a record of the current written medical history of the Patient;
- By failing to keep a record of a physical and risk assessment of Patient;
- By failing to keep a record of base line vital signs, including blood pressure, and pulse;
- By failing to keep a complete sedation or anesthesia record which included continuous monitoring of vital signs, taken and recorded at a minimum of every 5 minute intervals during the procedure;
- By failing to keep a complete sedation or anesthesia record which included the time and sequence of administration of drugs used during the procedure;
- By failing to keep a complete sedation or anesthesia record which included the duration of the procedure;
- By failing to keep a complete sedation or anesthesia record which included the names of participating personnel; or
- By failing to continuously monitor Patient intraoperatively by pulse oximetry and capnograph.
Pursuing a Dental Malpractice Wrongful Death Claim After a Loved One Dies as a Result of a Dental Procedure
When a family faces the devastating loss of a loved one due to a dental procedure, it can be a time of immense grief and confusion. But it's crucial to remember that legal recourse may be available. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore how to pursue a dental malpractice wrongful death claim to seek justice for your loss.
What Constitutes Dental Malpractice?
Dental malpractice refers to a situation where a dental care provider acts negligently, resulting in harm to the patient. Some forms of dental negligence can result in the death of the patient. This type of negligence can manifest in various forms, such as:
- Incorrect diagnosis;
- Improper treatment;
- Failure to monitor vital signs during sedation;
- Surgical errors;
- Improper administration of anesthesia.
In the context of a wrongful death claim, the negligence must be so severe that it leads directly to the patient's death.
Elements Required to Prove Dental Malpractice Wrongful Death
To successfully file a dental malpractice wrongful death claim, you must establish certain elements:
- Duty of Care: Prove that the dentist owed a duty of care to the patient.
- Breach of Duty: Show that the dentist failed to meet the standard of care expected in the dental community.
- Causation: Link the breach of duty directly to the death of the patient.
- Damages: Demonstrate the monetary and emotional impact on the family due to the loss.
Collecting evidence is a critical step in building a strong dental malpractice wrongful death claim. This may include:
- Medical records;
- Expert testimonials;
- Eyewitness accounts;
- Records of communication with the dental care provider.
Statute of Limitations
Bear in mind that there is a time limit to file a dental malpractice claim, known as the statute of limitations. This timeframe varies by state, so consult with an attorney to understand the limitations that apply to your case.
The Legal Process
Your first step should be to consult with a qualified attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases. They can evaluate the strength of your case and guide you through the legal process.
Filing the NOI
In Florida, a dental malpractice claim is initiated when the plaintiff/claimant and their dental malpractice attorney send out a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation (NOI). The NOI starts a 90-day investigatory period, during which both sides investigate the claim further.
Filing the Lawsuit
Once you've gathered sufficient evidence and worked through the NOI period of the case, you'll file the claim against the dental professional or their practice.
Both parties will have the opportunity to review evidence and interview witnesses. Additionally, the parties will conduct depositions. This phase is crucial for both building your case and negotiating settlements.
If a settlement isn't reached, the case goes to trial where the evidence will be presented, and a judgment will be rendered. A successful claim can result in monetary compensation for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, and emotional suffering.
Pursuing a dental malpractice wrongful death claim is a complex and emotionally taxing process. However, it's a crucial path to seek justice for your loved one and hold negligent dental professionals accountable. Ultimately, if a negligent doctor is left unchecked, more people could be hurt or killed.