Posted on Nov 02, 2023

A dentist in the Eastern District of Kentucky was found guilty of illegally prescribing opioid prescriptions, including morphine, that led to patient's untimely death.

Dr. Jay M. Sadrinia, a 60-year-old dentist in Villa Hills, Kentucky, was the proprietor of dental establishments in Crescent Springs. Despite the obvious danger his prescriptions posed, Sadrinia continued to provide patients with potent opioids for ordinary dental treatments.

The fatal incident involved Sadrinia prescribing morphine for a patient. Along with a hefty charge of $37,000 for dental services, the dentist also administered an excessive dosage of opioids to the individual, which included morphine. These prescriptions were said to be medically unnecessary, especially in the quantities prescribed. Unfortunately, the patient succumbed to a lethal overdose of morphine mere days following the prescription.

Upon the jury's verdict, Dr. Sadrinia was convicted on two counts: (1) illegal distribution of controlled substances resulting in death and (2) illegal distribution of controlled substances. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 13, 2023.

According to federal guidelines, the first count carries a mandatory minimum incarceration period of 20 years and could be extended to a life sentence. The second count holds a maximum prison term of 20 years. A federal district judge will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, among other legal stipulations, while determining the final sentence.

The conviction serves as a stern reminder that medical professionals bear a heavy responsibility to act within the bounds of the law, especially when prescribing medications that have the potential for abuse and death.

The Deadly Opioid-Involved Drug Overdoses in America

Dentist Opioid Prescribing Leads to Death of PatientAccording to the CDC, there were roughly 79,770 reported opioid-involved drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in December 2022. There were roughly 80,997 opioid overdose deaths the year before. These shocking numbers paint a scary picture of the effect opioid drugs are having on our country today.

Can a Dentist Be Sued for Dental Malpractice for Wrongful Prescriptions Cause a Patient's Death?

The recent conviction of Dr. Jay M. Sadrinia for illegally prescribing opioids that resulted in a patient's death raises an important question for the public: Can a dentist be sued for dental malpractice if their wrongful prescriptions lead to the death of a patient? The answer, generally speaking, is yes. Dental malpractice lawsuits can extend to cases where the dentist's negligent prescription practices result in severe harm or death.

In legal terms, dental malpractice is a form of professional negligence that occurs when a dentist fails to provide treatment to the level of the appropriate standard of care, or that level of care that a reasonably competent dental professional would offer under similar circumstances. To successfully claim dental malpractice related to wrongful prescriptions, the plaintiff must establish several key elements of negligence:

  • Duty of Care: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the dentist owed a duty of care to the patient. This is generally straightforward, as the existence of a dentist-patient relationship usually establishes this duty.
  • Breach of Duty: The plaintiff needs to prove that the dentist breached this duty of care. In cases involving wrongful prescriptions, evidence may include issuing excessive dosages, ignoring explicit warnings or guidelines, or prescribing medication that was not medically necessary for the dental procedure.
  • Causation: It must be proven that the dentist's breach directly led to the patient's harm or death. Medical expert testimony is often employed to establish a causal link between the wrongful prescription and the resulting health crisis.
  • Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they or their deceased loved one suffered quantifiable damages. These can range from medical expenses to emotional suffering, loss of income, or, in the most tragic cases, loss of life.

A successful dental malpractice claim can result in various forms of compensation, including but not limited to, reimbursement for medical costs, emotional distress, loss of wages, and sometimes punitive damages, which are aimed at deterring future negligent behavior rather than making the patient whole. If the wrongful prescription leads to the patient's death, surviving family members may consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit to seek damages for their loss.

It is essential for patients and their families to consult with an attorney that handles dental malpractice cases to navigate the complexities of the legal system. Your dental malpractice attorney can work with you to evaluate the merits of a case, collect essential evidence, and provide necessary legal guidance throughout the litigation process.

The legal landscape surrounding dental malpractice continues to evolve, particularly in the wake of cases that highlight the significant responsibilities and potential liabilities that dental professionals face. As the conviction of Dr. Sadrinia demonstrates, dentists are not exempt from the legal and ethical obligations to act in the best interests of their patients, especially when prescribing medications with potentially life-threatening consequences.