When a medical professional is accused of negligence, professional associations are often on hand to deliberate on consequences. These tribunals will sometimes investigate incidents and hand down fines, as well as limiting a person from practicing his or her profession in the future. In addition, criminal charges and civil litigation may be filed. Recently, the Alberta Dental Association and College handed down a fine of $330,000, the highest amount it has ever fined a member of its association.
The settlement was in response to a 4-year-old patient who suffered permanent brain damage due to a dental procedure. The patient was under anesthesia when, under the care of a nurse, she stopped breathing. Reportedly she was deprived of oxygen for up to seven minutes and was soon put on life support at a nearby hospital.
The incident left her with limited mobility in her arms and legs as well as only partial ability to speak. The dentist was charged by his association with five counts of unprofessional conduct and other administrative infractions. All five of the main charges were upheld after a week-long hearing, with a tribunal finding he did not take quick enough action during the incident.
One of the benefits of a professional association holding a trial of its own is that the organization can limit a physician's ability to practice again in certain circumstances. However, civil litigation can often reap higher penalties in Alberta medical malpractice cases. In this case, the victim's family has launched a $26.5 million lawsuit against both the dentist and his nurse. Those who have been the victim of professional negligence and wish to explore their legal options should speak with an Alberta lawyer.