Nearly every anesthesiologist here in New Mexico will attest to the fact that administering anesthesia requires a delicate balance between keeping the patient sedated and ensuring that his or her health is not jeopardized. Careful monitoring is required during the procedure, and at the first sign of trouble, the team needs to be able to react quickly and competently. Anything less could be considered medical malpractice if the patient suffers serious injuries or dies.
A teenage girl’s death led to the filing of a medical malpractice and wrongful death claim by her parents. She went to the dentist to have her wisdom teeth removed on June 9, 2015. The procedure began at approximately 9 a.m., but within 15 to 20 minutes the girl’s heart rate plummeted. She then went into cardiac arrest.
A call to 911 was not placed until approximately 9:31 a.m. While EMTs made their way to the scene, CPR was administered. EMTs worked to stabilize the girl for travel to the hospital for about 20 minutes. Six days later, she was dead due to oxygen deprivation to her brain.
Her parents allege that they were not informed about the risks of general anesthesia, which was incorrectly administered by the dentist. The proper equipment needed to monitor their daughter while under sedation was not present, and the dentist’s assistants did not have the proper training to competently monitor her. Her parents further claim that the dentist’s emergency response procedures were inadequate, and he and his staff failed to react properly when their daughter went into cardiac arrest.
Many people fail to recognize that going under anesthesia is just as serious and dangerous in a dentist’s office as it is in a hospital surgical suite. The staff members need the appropriate training and knowledge in order to skillfully administer such dangerous drugs and properly monitor a patient. This standard of care applies in a dentist’s office just as it does in any New Mexico hospital or surgical center. As illustrated by this family’s tragedy, the potential for errors is real, and if medical malpractice occurs, patients could die.