A Houston-area dentist who lost her license to practice in November 2017 formally faced charges this month for failing to properly treat a 4-year-old. This alleged malpractice led to permanent brain damage during what was a routine procedure. She is charged with causing serious bodily injury to a child by omission, which is a felony under Texas law.
Bethanial Jefferson allegedly overdosed Neveah Hall on sedatives during a routine procedure to treat tooth decay. Three hours later, she suffered from a seizure, and her temperature and oxygen saturation dipped dramatically. It took four hours for anyone to call for additional medical assistance, according to the district attorney’s office. Hall incurred brain damage during the procedure, which left her unable to talk, respond to instruction, or walk.
This was not Jefferson’s first run-in with sanctions. In 2005 and 2012, the Texas Board of Dental Examiners issued stiff reprimands. The board revoked her license after their investigation found that she fell below a minimum standard of care and committed dishonorable conduct while providing dental care according to state prosecutors.
The Importance of Due Diligence
This story highlights the importance of due diligence while providing dental care. Following some simple tips can help minimize risk of errors and complications during routine dental procedures. Apply these to your practice:
- Understand what causes prescribing errors—and create systems in your practice to limit these issues. For instance, inadequate or wrong patient information can create profound hazards. One common error involves inaccurate weight records. Children vary greatly in size and weight and often need prescription dosages that are specific to their individual bodies. Writing a weight of “25 kg” instead of “25 lbs,” for example, can lead to inappropriate and dangerous dosages. Double check all patient information for common sense, and confirm each patient’s records before administering or prescribing medications.
- Monitor all patients continuously. It is possible Hall could have sustained less damaging consequences to her brain had she been treated sooner. Constantly monitor your sedated patients, and fully understand the possible complications associated with each procedure.
- Prescribe opioids cautiously. Many dental procedures require short term pain relief. Addiction sufferers often use dental health problems as an additional avenue for securing drugs. Use industry best practices when prescribing opioids.
If you face board sanctions or possible revocation because of an honest mistake, we are here to help. Call the BERTOLINO LLP team now at 512-717-5432 or contact us online.
BERTOLINO LLP proudly represents licensed professionals across the entire State of Texas. To best serve our clients we have offices in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.