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Even routine surgery poses dangers to children

In what might be a parent's worst nightmare, including New Jersey parents, a 3-year-old girl died after being administered sedation for oral surgery at a dentist's office on Oahu, Hawaii. The dentist whose office performed the sedation has been closed by that state.

Parents in New Jersey should understand that even supposedly routine surgical procedures for children have the potential for medical malpractice.

According to the report, the 3-year-old girl was being sedated for so-called baby root canal procedures when she fell into a coma, suffered brain damage and later died. The child's parents have filed a negligence lawsuit against the dentist, who practiced at Island Dentistry for Children in Kailua. The state of Hawaii is also investigating the incident.

The patient's mother said the dentist said the little girl had 10 cavities; she recommended four dental procedures to correct those dental problems. A second dentist who performed another examination, however, said the poorly done X-rays revealed only a few cavities.

The plaintiff's lawyer pointed out that the 38-pound girl was heavily sedated during the procedure. According the lawyer, the patient received doses of Demerol and Hydroxyzine that were too much for a child of her weight. Records also show that the dentist failed to monitor the patient's vital signs every 5 minutes as suggested by professional pediatric dentistry guidelines. Records for the girl's surgery show a 26-minute gap between oxygen checks.

The death of any patient while undergoing a medical or dental procedure is heartbreaking. In this case, the tragedy is compounded by the patient's age and alleged negligence on the part of the dentist. Any treatment should be performed with the patient's safety foremost in mind. When failure to do results in patient injury or death, the patient or surviving family members can seek compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Washington Post, "Report: Hawaii eyes dentist after death of child," Jan. 9, 2014

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