A 46 year-old woman who underwent a tooth extraction died in the parking lot of a Detroit dental facility following the procedure, and her family is now claiming that the dentist and his staff failed to properly monitor her vitals or provide emergency care.
Amber Walters suffered from a series of pre-existing conditions, including asthma and diabetes, which forced her to use supplemental oxygen on a regular basis. However, her doctor had cleared her to have 18 teeth extracted due to an infection. Her sister Crystal, who accompanied her to the procedure, claims that the medical assistant at Southfield Dental Care who first took Ms. Walters’ vital signs appeared to be concerned, but this concern was brushed off by the dentist. Crystal reported that the medical assistant verbally informed the dentist that she was waiting for Amber’s heart rate to drop before beginning the procedure, but the dentist responded “we’re fine” and subsequently began the extraction.
When the dentist had extracted 16 of the 18 planned teeth, she stopped the procedure and mentioned something about Ms. Walters having a high heart rate. She then left the room to check on other patients for 5-10 minutes. When she returned, Crystal claimed that the dentist instructed her to “take her to the doctor and get that checked out, her heart rate’s high.”
At this point, Crystal and her husband James assisted Amber into the car. At this point, she began complaining that she was having difficultly breathing. Crystal was at first concerned that the oxygen in her tank was low, and ran inside the dental facility to seek help. She claims that the staff brought additional oxygen into the parking lot, but no one seemed to know how to perform CPR and “they were just kind of rubbing her chest.”
CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm. When the heart stops, the lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes. A person may die within eight to ten minutes. In the state of Michigan, registered dental assistants are required to hold a current CPR certification.
An ambulance was called, but paramedics were unable to revive Amber, and she died in the parking lot. Her family is now criticizing the dental practice for continuing with the tooth extraction if there were warning signs, as well as the fact that no one at the facility appeared to be properly trained to administer CPR.
Medical malpractice claims against dentists aren’t as common as those against other medical providers, but they do happen. The most common types of malpractice claims brought against dental providers include the failure to diagnose various conditions, the failure to properly supervise or oversee actions of employees (including dental hygienists and dental assistants), wrongfully administered anesthesia, lack of informed consent, and improper extraction of teeth, which is what her family claims happened in the case of Amber Walters.