Lawsuit: Toddler’s death during dental work was part of Medicaid scheme

Daisy Lynn Torres (Family Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The family of the 14-month-old girl who died after a visit to the dentist has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Austin Children’s Dentistry.

Her parents are suing the practice, the dentist, the anesthesiologist and the company he works for, Texas Anesthesiology Association. The cause of death of Daisy Lynn Torres, who died on March 29, 2016, was determined to be the result of anesthesia administered for the treatment of tooth decay, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

“We haven’t heard much, so we are kind of just taking action here, getting some answers so we can get some justice going on,” said Elizandro Torres, Daisy Lynn’s father. “We want this to be heard so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Betty Squier, the girl’s mother, said the child’s dentist, Dr. Michael Melanson, told her that there were more problems with her daughter’s teeth than expected; she had six cavities, four more than they thought she had. On the day of Daisy Lynn’s appointment, Dr. David Williams was there as the mobile anesthesiologist with Texan Anesthesiology. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Williams “did not describe or explain the procedure that would be performed.”

“It’s not fair. There needs to be justice. Her life was cut short due to someone’s greed and negligence,” said Squier.

A report from a forensic dental examiner questioned why Torres was having a dental procedure before she died, prompting the dental practice to suspect the child’s dentist. “One can only speculate as to why any treatment was performed considering no indication of dental disease or pathology was seen in the dental radiographs (x-rays) in the dental visit dated 03/29/2016,” wrote Robert Williams, a forensic odontologist.

“He was committing fraud. He was doing unnecessary work to her teeth that didn’t need to be done,” Squier continued. “He was taking advantage of a little girl. He was taking advantage of parents that didn’t know any better. We’re not doctors. We trust our medical professionals to tell us what would be the right thing to do for our children, and he completely took advantage of us.”

The lawsuit claims the girl’s death was part of a corporate scheme to bill Medicaid for unnecessary dental procedures. Her parents are now suing for $1 million. Their attorney, Sean Breen, told us Tuesday night they hope this lawsuit will protect other children from the dangers of pediatric predators and their money-making schemes.

“A big component of people that use Medicaid happens to be people who are low income and sometimes not as formally educated as others and they make for very good targets because they are trusting,” said Breen, with Howry Breen & Herman.

Breen says other families have come forward saying their children were also underwent unnecessary dental work at Austin Children’s Dentistry.

“People are now noticing, they are asking questions and we’ve talked to several families who instead of trusting implicitly, a provider, have decided to get a second opinion,” he said.

In July of 2016, Austin Children’s Dentistry said they suspended Dr. Melanson indefinitely until the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners finished its investigation. Dr. Melanson’s attorney told KXAN in July that the dentist “has NEVER provided general anesthesia to ANY patients at any time in his career. Instead, the dentist relied on a Board Certified Medical Anesthesiologist and the anesthesiologist’s support team.”

Back in September when the official autopsy report was filed, Austin Children’s Dentistry filed a lawsuit accusing the forensic dentist of libel, defamation and business disparagement.

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners is still investigating. Neither the dentist or the anesthesiologist involved have been disciplined by the state medical or dental boards and the Attorney General’s Office could not confirm whether their Medicaid Fraud Unit is investigating.

A spokesperson for Austin Children’s Dentistry says they cannot comment on pending litigation.

Daisy Lynn’s parents hope the lawsuit will bring awareness and hopefully save other children’s lives.

“There are procedures going on every single day. We want parents to know that they have a right to ask questions, they have a right to get a second opinion if they have a doubt,” Torres said.

“Something has to be done. Implement new rules, implement new laws, something has to change,” Squier said.

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