“The parents of a Maryland teen who died earlier this year during wisdom tooth surgery have sued the oral surgeon and the anesthetist for medical malpractice. Jenny Olenick, a 17-year-old junior at Marriotts Ridge High School in Woodstock, Md., died in April from complications during the outpatient procedure performed on 5 million Americans each year,” reports Yahoo!
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family by medical malpractice attorneys, makes claims that the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist were negligent. They failed to resuscitate the girl after her blood oxygen level and heart rate plummeted. The state’s chief medical examiner has determined that the young girl died from hypoxia – oxygen deprivation while under anesthesia.
While the family has declined to comment on the pending medical malpractice lawsuit, a family spokesperson did indicate that the family’s hope is to “highlight the surgery’s risks and the need for better emergency training among dentists and oral surgeons.”
Pediatric Dentistry and Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, the Olenick case is one of many pediatric dentistry fatalities. Because oral surgery may require sedation or anesthesia, the “The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that three staff be present when deep sedation occurs in a dental office. The anesthesia provider should be a licensed medical or dental practitioner with certification for providing anesthesia; he should monitor the patient’s vital signs, airway patency, cardiovascular and neurological status and adequacy of ventilation,” according to Yahoo!
The AAPD guidelines also indicate that even if state law allows an anesthesia assistant or registered nurse anesthetist to administer anesthesia to dental patients, the dentist should still be trained and licensed to provide anesthesia. Additionally, both the clinical staff and the operating dentist have to be up to date in basic life support in the event that there is a complication while a patient is under anesthesia.
Additionally, due to the risks associated with any surgical procedure – especially one where a patient is sedated or under anesthesia – some dentists are beginning to question whether wisdom tooth extraction is necessary in the majority of cases. “Studies suggest no more than 12 percent of [wisdom tooth] impactions lead to infections or damage to adjacent teeth — roughly the same incidence as appendicitis. No medical associations recommend prophylactic appendectomy.”
While there seems to be dissension among different health organizations, it does make sense to work with a pediatric dentist with whom you are comfortable to help you make the right decision for your children and yourself. If you or a loved one have suffered complications from a surgical procedure, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney in Chicago or in your area to find out your options.