Wednesday, June 19

North Carolina Dentist’s License Suspended After Patient Death

A dentist from Williamston, North Carolina recently had his license revoked after over-sedation ultimately led to a patient’s death, reported the South Carolina newspaper The State. The N.C. Board of Dental Examiners announced that Zachary J. Harrison will not be allowed to practice for a period of one to 10 years.

Before performing a dental procedure on 71-year-old James T. Williams, Harrison gave his patient 10 milligrams of Midazolam, a drug used for sedation. However, the board found that Harrison failed to take into account a number of critical factors before administering sedation, including the patient’s age, weight and medical history. They also found that he did not gradually increase the dose of Midazolam, which is a requirement in North Carolina.

It was not until over 20 minutes after Williams had been sedated that the staff at Dr. Harrison’s office requested a list of the patient’s medications from his cardiologist. Dr. Harrison had spoken to Williams’ cardiologist on a prior occasion, but never discussed the patient’s medical history. Information on medications and prior medical history are required to be gathered before surgical procedures involving sedation begin.

Williams was found unresponsive in the middle of the procedure, yet Dr. Harrison failed to give him drugs that can be used to counteract the effects of sedation, nor did he provide him with oxygen. Instead he tried to revive the patient with chest compressions.

Williams was taken to Martin General Hospital by emergency personnel and was later airlifted to Vidant Medical Center. On October 1, he was removed from ventilation.

Harrison’s sedation permit was suspended in December, and the board later suspended his license for a period of 10 years, beginning November 1. There is a possibility for Harrison to restore his license in one year if he completes a course at the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Harrison is the second dentist in North Carolina in two years to have his license revoked for the death of a patient during a sedation procedure. Dr. Toni Mascherin’s license was suspended in 2013 after reportedly ignoring imminent signs of danger during her patient’s tooth extraction and for failing to properly look into the patient’s medical history prior to the procedure.

Although instances like these may be rare, they are a reminder that sedation procedures require the utmost care and attention, both before and during the procedure.

“Midazolam is an extremely safe drug when used properly by an IV trained dentist. When properly administered by a trained dentist, sedation dentistry can be a very safe way to deliver dentistry services,” says Michael Sage DDS, President, Alaska Center of Dentistry.

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