Surgery is always a risk: know your rights for you and your family

June 28th, 2018

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


Earlier this month, a 17-year-old Illinois boy went to a dental clinic for what was to be a routine procedure – he was having a tooth filling replaced after one was dislodged when he ate some candy.

Instead, the youth, who had gone to the dental clinic by himself without a parent or guardian, underwent a root canal procedure.

A week later, the teen died of sepsis, an infection of the blood, based on an autopsy report, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

An investigation into the incident is underway by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation into the boy’s death.

A photograph of a dental chair and equipment in a dentist's office.

A photograph of a dental chair and equipment in a dentist's office. Image credit: ©

The Tribune story reported that the boy went to the dental office by himself and that the treatment was performed and he was sent home. In the days following the surgery, he felt fine at times and felt achy and tired at other times, according to the story. A week after the surgery, his family rushed him to a hospital when he was feeling poorly. He was placed on life support and died soon after, according to the story.

“Several medical experts said it is rare for serious complications to occur because of a root canal,” the Tribune reported. “It’s too early to determine whether the dental procedure led to sepsis or whether other complications were involved, said the experts, who are not familiar with the details of [the teen’s] case.”

Certainly, there are many questions that still need to be answered to determine why this tragic death occurred and whether someone is at fault for the teen’s death.

In the meantime, however, the case provides some important reminders to us all about surgery, risks, treatment and more.

*If you are going to have any kind of medical procedure or surgery performed, know exactly why you are undergoing the procedure. That may sound basic, but often people do what their doctors tell them to do, potentially not know the risks or alternatives to the recommended procedure.

*Consider getting a second opinion. This is an important step to be sure that you are getting the proper treatment and that it is medically necessary. Doctors can misdiagnose medical problems and recommend procedures that are not needed or are incorrect. Getting a second opinion from another medical professional can protect you from such mistakes and misinformation.

*Don’t allow a minor child to undergo any kind of medical procedure or surgery without a parent or guardian being present to understand the risks and reasons for the procedure. The case of the teen in Illinois going to the dental office alone shows the risks that can be present. While the investigation into what happened continues, it is difficult to imagine a teen asking many questions when he allegedly was told he needed a root canal procedure rather than just a new filling, according to the news accounts. Maybe he didn’t think to call home to ask what to do. It’s probably best not to put a child who is under 18 years of age in a situation like this. A parent of guardian who is present will certainly be able to determine the best course of action in such cases.

*Be sure to ask all questions that you have before consenting to any medical procedure for yourself or for your children. Knowledge is a very important thing to have before considering minor medical procedures or other surgery. The more you know about the risks, benefits, possible complications and the rest, the better off your family members will be in the long run.

*Obtain references for medical providers, via medical and dental Web sites and hospital Web sites, so you can look up reviews for doctors and medical personnel in your area. Many hospitals and medical organizations offer these kinds of services today that are free and can be very helpful to finding out if the doctors you are seeing are competent and skilled in their fields.

*And finally, after all the precautions you take to ensure that medical procedures are proper, your doctors are skilled and the facilities are competent, if you feel that something was done improperly or led to injury or death, you should be sure to talk to a qualified, skilled attorney to learn your rights and paths of action.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer handle medical malpractice cases regularly and are skilled at representing our clients in a wide range of scenarios.

Call us with your questions and concerns and we will take the time to listen, support you and help you move your case forward.

When losing isn’t an option, call MyPhillyLawyer.

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