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Kansas parents: Dentist's poor care led to daughter's death

A lot of Pittsburgh residents get nervous before a dental visit. That's why many dentists use conscious sedation, which is a practice of administering sedatives and painkillers to patients. Patients commonly remain awake and pain free during procedures.

Dentists and doctors are expected to investigate whether a patient is a good candidate for conscious sedation. Drug allergies and certain medical conditions may preclude this method of treatment. A dentist who proceeds without safeguards can be guilty of medical malpractice.

A young woman scheduled an appointment three years ago with a Wichita, Kansas, dentist. The anxious 20-year-old diabetic chose the dentist because he used conscious sedation. Her mother dropped her off for the appointment. The dental office later phoned the mother to report that the procedure was going well.

When she picked her up after the appointment, however, the concerned mother found her listless daughter in a wheelchair. The office staff said the lethargy was normal. The symptom persisted into the night. The mother contacted the dentist, who told her the young woman would be fine after she slept. Sometime during the night, the patient stopped breathing and died.

The grieving parents filed a wrongful death claim after receiving a phone call urging them to investigate the dentist's practices. The complaint alleged that the dentist failed to check the diabetic patient's blood sugar and her history of negative drug reactions.

Former staff members of the dentist testified that the young woman experienced chest pains, felt she was suffering a diabetic attack and ordered the dentist to stop. The patient's plea to contact her parents was also apparently ignored. The woman was left unattended in a bathroom, where she passed out. An expert testified that the patient likely was over-sedated.

The case was resolved with a settlement for an undisclosed amount.

All patients, including dental patients, have the right to receive quality, respectful health care. A medical professional who disregards a patient's safety is negligent, and can be held liable in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Source:, "Family speaks out after wrongful death settlement with Wichita dentist" Jason Tarr, Nov. 01, 2013

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