Family of 2-year-old who died after dental work sues office

2019 10 18 17 04 1697 Lawsuit 400

The parents of a 2-year-old boy who died during a dental procedure at an Arizona dental practice are suing the practice, claiming a staff member muted the alarm monitoring his heart and hooked him up to a faulty or empty oxygen tank, according to news reports.

The family of Zion Gastelum filed a lawsuit on January 7 against Kool Smiles in Yuma. Gastelum died on December 16, 2017, four days after he underwent dental work to address severe cavities, according to the suit.

On December 12, 2017, Zion was under general anesthesia when a clinician worked on nine of his primary teeth. Root canals were performed and crowns were placed on six of the boy's teeth, though the family alleges that x-rays and additional exams were not performed to confirm that all procedures were necessary.

Zion was extubated and taken to a recovery room after the procedures. The boy wasn't awake and still wasn't able to breathe on his own when staff left him to work on another patient, the family alleges. Zion was given supplemental oxygen from a tank that was either empty or not functioning properly, according to the suit.

His mother, Veronica Gastelum, allegedly went into the recovery room when she heard her son's heart monitor alarm. She claims she saw a staff member mute the alarm multiple times. Eventually, the staff member removed the monitor and allegedly said it does not work properly on children, Zion's mother claims.

It wasn't until his mother noticed that Zion's chest stopped moving and he had no pulse that the practice's staff members began to respond. The 2-year-old was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen. He died four days later, according to the suit.

Aaron Roberts, DMD, an anesthesiologist who was supervising the procedure, told police during its investigation that the Zion's procedures went well, according to reports.

Not the 1st problem

Kool Smiles, which has about 100 offices across 16 U.S. states and specializes in treating low-income families, has had legal troubles in the past.

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice settled a false claims lawsuit with dental management company Benevis, formerly known as NCDR, and approximately 100 of its affiliated Kool Smiles dental clinics, resulting in a $23.9 million fine plus interest.

The settlement resolved allegations that Benevis and Kool Smiles submitted false claims for payments to state Medicaid programs for unnecessary dental procedures on children, according to a justice department statement.

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