In New Jersey and elsewhere there has been an increased awareness in recent years about the dangers of anesthesia. We generally think of anesthesia problems occurring only in a hospital operating room, perhaps during a risky surgical procedure.
But the truth is that anesthesia errors can occur in nearly any medical setting, even the dentist's office. Sadly, these errors may be life-threatening or even fatal.
Earlier this year, a 17-year-old high school junior from Woodstock, Maryland, underwent a routine outpatient procedure to have wisdom teeth extracted by an oral surgeon. But the outcome was anything but routine. During the procedure she died of hypoxia, which is oxygen deprivation while under anesthesia.
Her parents have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the oral surgeon and the anesthesiologist. Despite evidence that the patient's blood oxygen level and heart rate had dropped, both doctors negligently failed to resuscitate the girl, the lawsuit alleges.
A family friend said: "Something should have been done at the first sign of the emergency happening. If they hadn't waited so long, Jenny would still be here."
This procedure is performed on approximately 5 million patients in the United States each year. Therefore, the family hopes that their tragic story will help educate the public about the risks associated with it, as well as press for improved emergency training for dentists and oral surgeons.
While this medical malpractice claim will now work its way through the Maryland court system, New Jersey readers should take note that anesthesia errors are not limited to hospital operating rooms.
Source: ABC News, "Parents sue after teen dies due to wisdom tooth surgery," Katie Moisse, Dec. 15, 2011