A family in Houston, TX, is developing a lawsuit against local dentist Bethaniel Jefferson after their 4-year-old daughter Nevaeh Hall suffered massive brain damage in her care.
Nevaeh visited the doctor to have several teeth removed and capped, but what should have been a relatively short routine procedure lasted seven hours and ended in tragedy. Nevaeh suffered multiple seizures and was chemically and physically suffocated while held down in a controversial restraint device and given five sedatives over a period of seven hours.
The restraint device is called a papoose, and it confines the child’s arms and legs to prevent them from interfering with the dental procedure.
Nevaeh’s parents began to worry when the procedure went longer than they had expected, but they were told to stay in the waiting room and that everything was going fine.
“They never did call it a seizure,” said Nevaeh’s mother in a press conference. “They just said shaking, she’s shaking. Just the whole time they assured us that everything was OK. And the next time we were allowed to come in is when the paramedics were actually coming back. And that was about four hours later.”
When another dentist reviewed the patient’s chart, it was found that her body was trying to compensate for her inability to breathe by escalating her heart rate to nearly 195 beats per minute. Her oxygen saturation dropped as low as 49%.
The dentist who conducted the review reported that, “Severe hypoxia is often classified as any saturation lower than 86%. And is known to cause brain damage.”
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners had already reprimanded and fined Jefferson twice before this incident. Her license is temporarily suspended and a revocation hearing is pending.
The family is suing for what their attorney Jim Moriarty called, “gross negligence.”
“Clinics across America, across Houston, across Texas use the same business model every day to over-treat these children and use these restraints. And the standard is exactly what happened here, separate mom and dad from their child, assuage their fears, take the child back, over-treat them and get away with it,” said Moriarty. “We’ve got to get the American public to understand you cannot allow your child to be held in a restraint device without you personally being present.”
This sort of incident has been seen across the country. Just last year in Minnesota, 17-year-old Sydney Galleger suffered cardiac arrest while getting her wisdom teeth pulled. She died the following week.
Wisdom teeth removal is a routine procedure performed on five million Americans each year. Most reports of fatalities and non-fatal incidents come out of Texas, but this may be due to the fact that Texas is one of the few states that requires a practice to report these incidents.
Nationwide, over 80% of all states do not release reports of death or non-fatal incidents.