By Rob Shikina
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 01, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 02:09 a.m. HST, May 01, 2014
The family of a mother who fell into a coma after a Hilo dental office visit in March is suing the dentist for negligence and lack of training.
Kristen Nicole Tavares, 24, has been taken off a ventilator, but remains in a deep coma, hooked up to a feeding tube at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Rick Fried, her family’s attorney, said at a news conference on Wednesday to announce the lawsuit.
Fried, who is also representing the family of a 3-year-old girl who died after falling into a coma at a dentist’s office in Kailua, called Tavares’ case “another very sad and unnecessary dental mishap.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Circuit Court on Hawaii island, names as defendants Dr. John Stover and his business, Hilo Oral and Facial Surgery.
Fried said Tavares’ parents, Joseph Tavares Jr. and Diana Pulgados, have left their jobs to be with their daughter, who has two sons of her own: a 4 1/2-year-old and a 3-month-old.
Tavares was healthy on March 17 when she visited Stover’s office to have her wisdom teeth removed, Fried said. As a result of anesthesia administered by the dentist, Tavares went into cardiac arrest and then a coma, he said.
She was taken to Maui because the Queen’s Medical Center was diverting emergency room patients at the time.
The suit says Stover, who also is an oral surgeon, did not have the procedures in place to respond to an emergency such as the one involving Tavares, and did not have the knowledge, training or experience to resuscitate and treat her.
“What has happened here is we have a dentist-doctor who has had a dozen complaints, including this matter, lodged against him … continue to practice,” Fried said.
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs said investigations into some of those complaints have been completed and are scheduled to be reviewed by the medical board on May 8 and the dental board on May 19.
Fried said Stover received his Hawaii dental license in 2005, during a gap of about a year while the process for licensing dentists in Hawaii was being prepared. During that gap, the state issued licenses to about six dentists under a court order as long as the dentists had a license from somewhere else.
Dr. Lilly Geyer, who was operating on 3-year-old Finley Puleo Boyle when the girl went into a coma – likely from sedatives and local anesthesia, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office – and later died in January, also received her license during that gap. The suit against Geyer is pending.
Fried said the state dental board began requiring strict guidelines for using anesthesia in an outpatient setting on Jan. 27. The regulations require 60 hours of training and several other conditions before giving anesthesia or the presence of a qualified person who stays with the patient until the procedure is over.
Fried said he has requested extensive documents to get “complete answers” about what happened the day Tavares visited Stover and whether Stover was complying with the new guidelines.
Fried said Stover’s three offices in Hilo, Kona, and Waimea have closed, but that Stover is still in Hawaii. Stover and his attorney, Arthur Roeca, did not return calls for comment.
“All we can do is hope something miraculous happens for Kristen,” Fried said.
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