Posted on Sep 05, 2023

In a devastating incident in Louisville, Kentucky on June 30, 2022, 42-year-old Shanna Wright lost her life following what was expected to be a routine tooth extraction at a Louisville dental office. Wright had been experiencing tooth pain and went to the dental clinic with her mother, Lisa Freiberger, who never anticipated the dire turn events would take.

Freiberger had planned to take her daughter home and return to work after the dental procedure. However, what transpired was a horrific sequence of medical emergencies, culminating in Wright being rushed to the hospital. Five days later, on July 5, 2022, Wright passed away due to acute respiratory failure triggered by a brain injury.

Wright's family has filed a lawsuit against the dental clinic and the operating dentist. The attorney representing the family, criticized the use of Propofol, an anesthetic commonly employed in surgeries. Notably, Propofol gained public attention as the drug that contributed to Michael Jackson's death.

The defendant doctor’s attorney stated that appropriate care was rendered but declined to offer further comments due to ongoing litigation.

The case has led to pointed questions about the safety protocols at dental offices, especially concerning anesthesia and sedation. Records show that Wright was administered not just Propofol but also naloxone—commonly known as Narcan—a drug primarily used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Freiberger disclosed that her daughter had a medical history that included a jaw condition since childhood. This condition impacted her ability to open her mouth wide, thereby complicating not only the extraction but also the process of intubation.

This unfortunate event raises serious questions about the overall safety of dental surgeries performed outside hospital settings. A 2017 study revealed that dental-related deaths, while rare, are most frequently caused by anesthesia or sedation complications.

Furthermore, Wright's case is not an isolated tragedy in Kentucky. Last year, Elena Montenegro also passed away following dental implant surgery, leading to a wrongful death lawsuit based on dental malpractice.

While Kentucky mandates sedation permits for dentists performing such procedures, there is growing concern about the adequacy of these requirements. Freiberger advocates for stringent measures, such as mandating that anesthetics like Propofol should only be administered in a hospital setting under an anesthesiologist's supervision.

The story stands as a chilling reminder of the overlooked but potential dangers involved in what are often considered routine medical procedures, prompting calls for reform and greater scrutiny.

Anesthesia Errors that Can Lead to Death in a Dental Chair

Dental procedures are generally considered to be safe medical interventions. However, the administration of anesthesia introduces an element of risk that, if not managed properly, can lead to severe complications or even death. Below, we will delve into some of the most critical anesthesia errors that can turn a dental chair into a fatal setting.

Incorrect Dosage Administration

Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia is one of the most prevalent mistakes. An overdose can lead to respiratory failure and cardiac issues, while an underdose might cause the patient to awaken during the procedure, complicating the surgery further. Thus, it’s critical for a doctor to make sure to administer anesthesia correctly.

Drug Interactions and Monitoring Failures

Drug interactions present another potential hazard. If a patient's complete medical history isn't carefully reviewed, anesthesia can dangerously interact with other medications the patient is taking.

Furthermore, during the procedure, continuous monitoring of the patient's vital signs is crucial. Modern anesthesia equipment comes with alarms designed to alert the medical team of any complications. Ignoring or overriding these alarms can result in tragic consequences.

Intubation and Emergency Response

Improper intubation can be disastrous. Incorrect placement of the breathing tube can lead to insufficient oxygen reaching the brain, causing brain damage or death. Even a slight delay in deciding to intubate in an emergency situation can rapidly worsen the patient's condition.

Equally important is recognizing symptoms of complications such as allergic reactions or respiratory distress. Every dental clinic that administers anesthesia should have emergency protocols in place, and a failure to follow them can exacerbate the situation.

Professional Qualifications

Finally, the qualifications of the medical staff are paramount. Anesthesia should only be administered by professionals who have received proper training and are up-to-date with the latest medical guidelines. Allowing unqualified staff to administer anesthesia can lead to grave errors.

By understanding these anesthesia errors, patients can better advocate for their safety, and professionals can take essential steps to minimize these risks. Vigilance, proper training, and strict adherence to medical protocols are the keys to preventing the devastating outcomes that these errors can bring about.

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

The loss of a loved one is always a traumatic experience. The tragedy becomes even more intense when it's the result of a procedure as seemingly routine as dental work. If you find yourself facing such a heartbreaking situation, it's crucial to understand your legal options and the steps you should take. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on what to do if your loved one dies due to dental malpractice.

Collect Medical Records

The first step in identifying malpractice is to request the medical records of your loved one. These records should contain detailed information about the procedure, the medications administered, and the professionals involved. Scrutinize the records carefully to look for inconsistencies or irregularities that may point to negligence.

Seek Legal Advice

Navigating the complexities of dental malpractice law requires unique knowledge. Engage a qualified attorney who handles dental malpractice cases to represent your interests and guide you through the legal maze.

Consult an Expert

You and your attorney will speak with a medical expert who specializes in dental care or anesthesia to get an independent opinion about what went wrong. Experts can offer insights into whether standard protocols were violated, leading to the unfortunate event. Additionally, an expert’s opinion is required to pursue a dental malpractice case in many states, including Florida and South Carolina.