Dentist Charged After Patient Dies While Having Teeth Pulled

| by Jared Keever
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An Enfield, Connecticut, dentist has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after one of his patients died while he was extracting 20 of her teeth, Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said Wednesday.

The Hartford Courant reports Rashmi Patel turned himself in Tuesday once he learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest in connection with the February 2014 death of 64-year-old Judith Gan.

“We were investigating it all along,” Sferrazza said of the year-long investigation.

Patel, 45, is also charged with tampering with evidence.

The retired librarian and mother-of-two had consented to the dental work which included extraction of all of her teeth, implants and grafts. Records obtained by WFSB News indicate Patel was aware of Gan’s various pre-existing medical conditions and had received four medical clearances from other doctors.

But two of Patel’s dental assistants would later tell investigators that Gan’s oxygen levels fell while she was under sedation and Patel decided to keep working. 

According to the documents obtained by the news agency, one of the assistants told investigators that “an assistant asked if we could call 911 and he said no.”

Patel reportedly noted that one of the monitors in the room wasn’t working properly. Documents indicate the assistant then told investigators, “That same assistant told Dr. Patel to stop the procedure and help her. He then injected the PT with the reversal agent. I thought we were going to stop. I was (relieved) because the oxygen was so unstable I didn't think it was safe to keep working.”

The records indicate the assistant “kept telling Dr. Patel the PT's oxygen was dropping. He told her not to tell him again unless it goes under 60. It kept dropping.”

As the situation grew worse Patel eventually told an assistant to call 911, the records show, but by that time Gan had reportedly already flatlined. 

Gan was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. 

An autopsy revealed she died of therapeutic complications related to her heart.

“Based on that investigation, we met with witnesses and state's attorney's office and put together enough facts in the warrant, that a level of probable cause was found,” Sferrazza said.

Patel’s attorney, Paul Knag, released a statement shortly after the criminal charges were filed. 

“After several months of deliberation, the state Dental Commission found that Dr. Patel's actions did not warrant the revocation of his license,” the statement said. “In the Dental Commission proceeding, multiple expert witnesses testified that Dr. Patel followed the standard of care. The state's seeking of criminal charges is contrary to this evidence and inconsistent with the decision of the Commission not to revoke his license. Dr. Patel disputes the charges and urges that the charges be dropped.”

Patel’s license was suspended April 21, 2014. It was reinstated Dec. 17, 2014, to practice general dentistry but he was told he may never again treat a patient under sedation.

The attorney for the Gan family, Rick Kenny, said he is not aware what evidence police have of evidence tampering, but that charge might lead state health officials to reopen their investigation. 

“If the gentleman tampered with evidence and if (there is) proof he tampered with evidence, his license should be removed. No way (he should be) allowed to practice at all,” Kenny said.

Patel has been released on $25,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24. 

Sources: Hartford CourantWFSB News

Photo Credit: WFSB News courtesy of Enfield Police Department, WikiCommons