On March 28, 2011, seventeen-year old Jennifer Olenick went in for a routine wisdom tooth extraction. During the procedure while under anesthesia, she began experiencing bradycardia in which her heart rate began to slow. Jennifer's oral surgeon and anesthesiologist allegedly failed to correct the problem and her condition worsened. Jennifer then went into cardiac arrest and later died from complications related to an apparent anesthesia error. Jennifer's family has now filed a civil medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the anesthesiologist and oral surgeon involved in the wisdom tooth extraction.
The medical malpractice suite alleges doctors failed to properly monitor the teen while under anesthesia and failed to properly resuscitate her after her heart rate dropped to 40 beats per minute. The lawsuit further alleges that as a result of the doctors' medical negligence, Jennifer suffered irreversible brain damage. The irreversible brain damage ultimately led to Jennifer's death ten days later. According to the Chief Medical Examiner, the central cause of Jennifer's death was hypoxia (or oxygen deprivation) that occurred while under anesthesia.
When a patient is under anesthesia, their breathing and oxygenation levels must be constantly monitored. This is the standard of care, meaning what a reasonable physician would do under the same or similar circumstances. Failing to properly monitor a patient's these vital signs while under anesthesia can result in a catastrophic brain injury, as seemingly occurred in this case.
In this case, Jennifer was apparently given too little anesthesia initially. Thereafter, the anesthesiologist gave more. After this, Jennifer's heart rate began to drop to a dangerously slow rate. In addition to concerns about whether Jennifer was being properly monitored during this time, there are also serious questions about whether doctors took appropriate steps to resuscitate Jennifer. Once emergency responders were called and arrived on the scene, they were able to regain a pulse within four minutes according to the lawsuit. However, by then, Jennifer had been without oxygen for too long.
Baltimore Sun, Parents Of Student Who Died After Dental Surgery Sue For Malpractice, December 13, 2011.