Posted on Sep 04, 2023

In a devastating turn of events on June 12, 2017, a 3-year-old girl lost her life during what was supposed to be a routine dental procedure in Stockton, California. The child underwent the fatal dental procedure at a pediatric dental office in Stockton.

The grieving mother spoke out about the horrific incident, emphasizing that she had simply taken her daughter to the dentist to have her teeth fixed. Within a half-hour, she was informed that her daughter had died. The family was devastated, as the photos of the little girl taken prior to the surgery depicted her as a vivacious and joyful child.

According to the child’s father, she had been excited before going into surgery. The mother reported that she had seen an ambulance arrive while she was waiting, but never imagined it was for her daughter. The medical staff later informed her that something went wrong during the procedure, and her daughter’s heart had stopped. They suggested the possibility of underlying heart issues, a claim which the mother vehemently refuted, stating her daughter had always been healthy.

The administrator at the pediatric dental office, said that the facility primarily conducts general dental procedures such as filling cavities and placing crowns. On that fateful day, the child was set to have two teeth extracted and caps placed on two other teeth. Allegedly, complications arose due to an adverse reaction to anesthetics. The child was stabilized and transferred to the hospital, where her life could not be saved.

As the family sought answers to the perplexing tragedy, the Dental Board of California announced an ongoing investigation into the incident, reiterating their primary commitment to consumer protection. Similarly, the Stockton Police Department commenced their own investigation, stating that the case did not initially appear to be criminal or suspicious.

The loss of a young life in such unanticipated circumstances raised urgent questions about the safety protocols at dental offices, leaving a community in mourning and a family forever changed.

How Can Errors in Anesthesia Kill a Child in a Dental Chair?

When a child is subjected to a dental procedure that requires anesthesia, the primary expectation is that they will be safe and will wake up after the procedure is completed. Unfortunately, things can go tragically wrong due to errors in administering anesthesia. In this article, we delve into the factors that could lead to the worst possible outcome: the death of a child in a dental chair due to anesthesia errors.

Types of Anesthesia Used in Dental Procedures

Understanding the types of anesthesia used in dental procedures can help in identifying where errors might occur. Anesthesia can range from local numbing agents to general anesthesia that puts the child into a deep sleep. The choice of anesthesia depends on various factors such as the complexity of the dental procedure and the child's medical history.

Incorrect Dosage

One of the most common errors in anesthesia administration is incorrect dosage. An overdose can cause severe complications, including respiratory distress, cardiac arrest, and ultimately death. On the other hand, underdosing might lead to the patient waking up during the procedure, causing severe psychological trauma.

Allergic Reactions

Some children may have unknown allergies to substances used in anesthesia. An allergic reaction can cause anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention. Failure to respond in a timely manner can lead to fatal outcomes.

Lack of Monitoring

Once anesthesia is administered, constant monitoring of vital signs is crucial. Negligence in monitoring can lead to missing early signs of distress or complications, reducing the chances of prompt intervention.

Equipment Malfunction

Anesthesia equipment, such as vaporizers and ventilators, must be in perfect working condition. Equipment failure or malfunction can lead to inadequate anesthesia administration, causing dire consequences including asphyxiation or cardiac arrest.

Inadequate Training and Experience

Anesthesia should only be administered by qualified professionals. Lack of adequate training can result in mistakes that may prove fatal. For example, failure to properly intubate the patient can lead to suffocation.

Human Error

Even the most experienced anesthetists are not immune to human error. A slight miscalculation or a moment of distraction can be catastrophic, especially when a child's life is at stake.

Immediate Steps After an Anesthesia Error

In the tragic event of an anesthesia error, immediate medical intervention is crucial. Families should also consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney to understand their rights and explore legal options.

What to Do if Your Child Dies as a Result of Dental Malpractice

The loss of a child is an unimaginable tragedy that leaves families shattered. When that loss occurs due to dental malpractice, the pain is compounded by questions, anger, and the need for accountability. Knowing the steps to take in the wake of such a traumatic event can provide a roadmap for families seeking justice.

Contact an Aggressive Dental Malpractice Attorney

The legal complexities surrounding dental or medical malpractice cases necessitate knowledge in the relevant field, which can extend beyond the typical personal injury case. An attorney with a background in dentistry can help you understand your rights, guide you through the process, and offer advice on how to proceed. Your attorney can also help you gather the required evidence and handle all communications with the other parties involved.

Secure Medical Records and Documentation

The first thing your attorney will likely advise you to do is to secure all medical records, including those related to the dental procedure. This may include:

  • Dental records;
  • Pre-operation and post-operation notes;
  • Any medications prescribed or administered.

Collecting these documents will establish a timeline and offer insight into any deviations from standard medical protocols.

Consider Civil Litigation for Wrongful Death

Based on the evidence and legal advice, you may choose to file a wrongful death suit against the dental practitioner or the facility where the procedure took place. Your dental malpractice attorney will guide you through this process, which may involve negotiations for a settlement or going to trial.