Unwarranted delay in treatment resulted in several root canals...

by A
(USA)

I would like to know if I have a malpractice case for unwarranted delay in treatment and what would you recommend as the ramification (ex. no case, get a lawyer, file a complaint, small claim court, etc.?)

My kid had been seeing this general dentist for few years and we regularly met with him once every six months. Essentially, the dentist only had been doing the teeth cleaning for my kid. Although my kid had cavities and the dentist was aware of it, the dentist kept pushing it off and said it's not be big deal and that he will take care of it on the next visit.

Finally on the last visit, the dentist tried to fix my kid's cavity, but he had a hard time because he didn't have the device to keep my kid's mouth open. Running out of patience and time, he gave up in the middle, left my kid with a drilled open hole in a tooth, and asked us to find another dentist. He didn't even put a temporary filling to cover up the hole!

After we met up with the new pediatric dentist, who took X-rays for my kid and reviewed them with us, we were caught by surprise that our kid's tooth was in really bad shape. He had to have several root canals done and had a few other cavities that almost required root canals.

As a result, we maxed out our dental insurance for the year and had to pay over a thousand dollars out-of-pocket, not to mention it was painful for my kid during those weeks of treatment. What can we do? Is the first dentist negligent for not properly treating my kid and letting the teeth get that bad? And also for stopping treatment in the middle of a procedure like that?

I also want to say, thank you very much for providing coaching to the general public who do not have a legal background.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Unwarranted delay in treatment resulted in several root canals...":

A (USA):

It appears you may have a claim of abandonment of a patient. Abandoning a patient is not only unethical, but may constitute dental malpractice.

There are five (5) legal elements to patient abandonment. If it can be shown the dentist engaged in one or more of these, he may be liable for abandoning your daughter and for any damages related to her abandonment.

The elements of patient abandonment are:

1. Dental treatment was unreasonably discontinued

2. The discontinuance of dental care was contrary to the patient's will or without the patient's knowledge

3. The dentist failed to arrange for care by another appropriate skilled dentist

4. The dentist should have reasonably foreseen that harm to the patient (your daughter) would arise from the termination of the care (proximate cause)

5. The patient (your daughter) actually suffered harm or loss as a result of the discontinuance of treatment

Consult with a personal injury attorney with experience in medical and/or dental malpractice cases. From the facts you present, it may not be hard to find an attorney to accept your daughter's case.

In addition, you can contact your State Dental Board to lodge a complaint against the dentist.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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