Dental negligence can include a range of errors like delay in treatment, incorrect diagnosis, substandard dental treatment (fillings, crown work, or root canal treatments), poorly executed orthodontics, periodontal disease misdiagnosis and mismanagement, and restorative or cosmetic dentistry errors. Every dentist should strive to provide the patient with the best possible treatment for that particular patient. Each and every patient entering the clinic is different, so generalizing a single treatment plan for all the patients will be a mistake on the dentist's side. Dental negligence can sometimes arise from patients' irregularities in appointments, misbehavior, and misunderstandings between the patient and dentist. A dentist always must take concern from the patient and parents if the patient is a minor.
Dentists should always explain all the treatment possibilities available and the possible adverse effects of that particular treatment. In pediatric care, when dealing with pediatric patients, one should be more cautious, as children cannot express themselves as an adult would. Various techniques are available for performing dental treatment on a pediatric patient, ranging from omission to a papoose board that helps temporarily stabilize a patient and limits their ability for movement. All these should be used only when necessary; indiscriminate use of these techniques can do more harm than good. One such event that took place was in January 2016 in Texas.
4-year-old girl Nevaeh Hall was shattered with irreversible brain damage after a former dentist, Rd. Bethany Jefferson reportedly performed a dental procedure on her. The then 4-year-old was taken to the clinic by Courissa's mother to get some of her daughter's teeth capped or removed due to cavities. Parents were asked to stay in the waiting room while Nevaeh Hall was taken inside. It was reported that Nevaeh reportedly had a seizure attack; however, the family was asked not to worry. Courissa Clark was in fact asked to go back to the waiting room, and Jefferson (the dentist at Hall) confirmed that their daughter was doing alright. Nevaeh's mother stated that, at the moment, the family was not informed that their daughter had a seizure. They were misled that their daughter was "shaking, and after several hours, an ambulance was called, but it was too late. Due to an extreme oxygen shortage, the child suffered irreparable brain damage. Her body defended itself to compensate for her breathlessness by increasing her heart rate to as high as 195 beats per minute. Her blood pressure reached a dangerous number of 168/77," the dentist's report said, as per CBS News.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Bethaniel Jefferson was found guilty of recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child by omission. Jefferson refused to call 911 for more than five hours while the child continued to have episodes of seizures, three in total during the incident. Jefferson instead gave Nevaeh a Halcion pill that is used for insomnia, which shouldn’t be given. The dentist called a pastor and a pharmacist before calling 911.
Administering the Halcion drug was a mistake,” another medical expert, Dr. Roger Byrne, testified during the trial.
On Wednesday, September 13, Dr. Jefferson was found guilty and sentenced to five-year probation. However, the prosecutors were not satisfied with the sentencing and sought a sentence of 20 years behind bars, but Jefferson's attorney argued that sending her to prison would be an extreme punishment.
Clara Clark, Nevaeh's grandmother, expressed her dissatisfaction and unhappiness regarding the verdict and stated that it was unfair and that the dentist should have been imprisoned to FOX 26. Clara further stated that while Jefferson can go on with her normal life after her sentence ends, Hall can never do things a girl of her age can.
Dr. Meghashree V BDS, MHA, Shankara Cancer Hospital, Hospital Administrator, Bangalore, shared her opinion on the incident “This news is a testament to a heinous act. It highlights the status of patient safety within the healthcare sector. Although many accreditation bodies are working towards the implementation of patient safety practices, incidents like the above force one to question the veracity of the same. The above act not only questions the clinical skill and knowledge but also questions the sense of moral responsibility of the practitioner. No room should be given to incidents like these, and it is about time that one should start taking the safety of the patients as the main priority.”
(Input from various media sources.)
(Rehash/opinion/Dr. Meghana Pasala)