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Why Did A 4-Year-Old Boy Die at The Dentist?

March 27, 2017

A routine dental procedure took the life of a 4-year-old boy in Washington State last week. The boy's mother wants to know what happened. According to, the boy was on the autism spectrum. His mother took him to a dentist in Vancouver that specializes in treating child patients who suffer from various developmental disabilities. The autopsy and toxicology reports will not be completed for some time. Meanwhile, the heartbroken family waits for answers.

The young boy was a challenge for his dentist. The child's mother told reporters that her son refused to open his mouth for the dentist to such an extent the dentist could not work on the child. However, the dentist had a proposed solution to the problem.

The dentist office employs a board certified anesthesiologist to assist with difficult patients. The doctor administers sedatives to the children to help relax them and help them sleep during the procedure. The anesthesiologist gave the child an extra shot of ketamine before the treatment, hoping the boy would not wake during the procedure. From a dental perspective, the procedure was a success.

The boy's mother reported that everything appeared to be normal. She was in the waiting room while her son received treatment. The dentist came out to greet her after the treatment ended. The dentist explained what the procedure entailed and how it went. After the dentist had provided an update on the procedure, the dentist indicated that it was time to check on the boy to see if he was coming out of the anesthesia. The dentist and anesthesiologist found the boy unresponsive. Dental staff immediately started CPR and called for an ambulance. Paramedics took the boy to the hospital, where the boy tragically died. Now, the grieving mother is left without her baby boy and struggling to find money to pay for funeral costs. Someone in the community started a "GoFundMe" donation page to ease the monetary burden on her.

The dental office refused to comment on the situation specifically but did claim that they take every precaution to avoid injury to their patients. The dentist argued that it had performed over 1,900 dental procedures over a three-year time span without complication. Additionally, the office employs a board certified anesthesiologist who follows strict protocols when administering sedatives and general anesthesia in addition to obtaining medical clearance from the child's pediatrician.

What Are Some Of The Potential Legal Issues In A Case Like This?

A plethora of intricate and complicated legal issues present themselves in a case like this. The question at the outset is whether the second dose of ketamine was too strong for a four-year-old boy. What is unknown is whether the child had been administered ketamine or any other sedative before and how he had previously reacted to it, if applicable. Furthermore, there is a question of whether the child received one dose and then started to wake during the dental examination, perhaps necessitating the second dose. Also unknown is whether the child had any allergies to medication or suffered any distress during the dental work. Also unknown is whether the anesthesiologist consulted the boy's physician about a subsequent dose of ketamine.

A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney will know how to obtain the answers to these questions. Much may turn on the results of the autopsy and toxicology results. In the meantime, many answers must be given and many more questions asked. 

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