December 30, 2011

A medical malpractice case recently was filed against a Maryland dentist (a highly-regarded oral surgeon) and an anesthesiologist for the death of a teenage girl who was undergoing routine wisdom teeth extraction in the dentist’s office when her heart rate fell drastically, causing her body to loose oxygen. When emergency responders arrived at the dentist’s office, the girl did not have a pulse but they were able to regain her pulse with advanced medical treatment.

The medical malpractice claim alleges that the teenager died from irreversible brain damage due to lack of oxygen (hypoxia) while she was anesthetized during the procedure. The medical malpractice lawsuit claims that the medical malpractice defendants negligently failed to resuscitate the girl, which led to her death.

According to the Maryland State Chief Medical Examiner, the anesthesiologist gave the teenager a standard dose of anesthesia, which was not enough. She was then given more anesthesia (also standard procedure) that allegedly resulted in a severe slowing of her heart rate. An autopsy determined that the teenage girl died from acute hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (brain damage due to lack of oxygen) and swelling of her brain.

The standard of care requires that a patient’s breathing, airway, and oxygenation while under anesthesia must be constantly monitored by both observation by the anesthesiologist and by use of a pulse oximeter that monitors the level of oxygen in the blood. Proper monitoring could note oxygenation problems that could be timely and properly addressed that may avoid hypoxia before it would lead to death due to cardiac arrest because of the lack of oxygen.

A website that advocates for dental safety in the U.S. lists 36 children who have died due to dental incidents since 1974.


While the death of the Maryland teenager during a routine dental procedure is both shocking and extraordinarily sad, it is also a stern reminder that routine medical procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction, etc., all have risks associated with them. It is imperative that patients discuss all proposed medical procedures with their health care providers, including the risks associated with the procedures and any alternatives to the suggested procedures, and that patients make their health care decisions only after being fully aware of their medical condition and the recommended treatment, so that patients are in control of their own bodies and their own health care.

Not all bad outcomes from medical care are due to medical malpractice. In general, it is when a medical provider fails to provide that level of care that a reasonably competent medical provider in the same medical field under the same or similar circumstances would have provided that medical malpractice has occurred (“medical malpractice” may be defined differently in different states in the U.S.).

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of possible medical malpractice in the U.S., visit our website  or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and bring a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.

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