Anesthesia is commonly used in all types of medical procedures from major surgery to minor in-patient treatments. Many dentists also regularly use anesthesia when operating on their patients. However, anesthesia can still be very dangerous, and is responsible for thousands of patient deaths. A toddler undergoing a dental procedure died under anesthesia when a dentist treated her cavities.
Betty Squier brought her daughter to Austin Children’s Dentistry in Texas for a couple of cavities. However, after 14-month-old Daisy Lynn Torres was seen by the dentist, Dr. Michael Melanson, he informed her mother that the child had 6 cavities. The dentist said the child would need 4 crowns and two fillings.
The child’s mother said she had doubts about requiring 4 crowns for a toddler’s baby teeth, but agreed to the procedure. “I allowed him to do it because I trusted him,” said Squier.
During the procedure, the child was anesthetized to keep her calm during the dental work. However, at some point the child stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. Dr. Melanson called 9-1-1, and the girl was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, it was too late and the child died. Her mother never expected a simple visit to the dentist to end in the death of her young daughter.
While death from anesthesia is rare, people continue to die or suffer serious injuries from the treatment. In the 1940s, the rate of death from anesthesia was about 640 for every 1 million anesthesia patients. In the past few decades, that number has dropped to less than 10 per million. In some cases, too much anesthesia can cause the patient’s blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels.
Many experts advise against using anesthesia whenever possible and suggest it be used sparingly on young children during dental work.
According to the autopsy report by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, the toddler died from the anesthesia given to her by the doctor. However, what is even more troubling is the autopsy report said there was nothing wrong with the child’s baby teeth and no dental work was necessary.
Melanson was suspended from practice by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners pending the results of an investigation. The clinic said Melanson was a contract dentist and has not treated any patients at the clinic since his suspension began on July 15th.
A lawyer for Dr. Melanson has responded that the dentist did nothing wrong to cause the girl’s death. The lawyer also questioned the autopsy report, saying there were clinical oversights and significant errors; however, the attorney did not specify the specific errors in the report. The attorney also says no problems were detected by the autopsy because the tooth disease had already been removed.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical error, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.