Woman Goes to Smile Implant Center in Newport Beach, Dies; Daughter of Deceased Wins Malpractice Suit

Categories: Doctor's Orders
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isafmedia/Flickr Creative Commons
Los Angeles resident Paula Kane went to the Smile Implant Center in Newport Beach for dental implants after seeing a newspaper advertisement in January 2010. When she entered the facility around 9:30 a.m.,  anesthesiologist Dr. Barry Friedberg administered her drugs while she stayed awake--Kane's anesthesia of choice for the procedure known as "oral conscious sedation." Hours later, she went into respiratory arrest; her blood turned dark, according to one of the dental assistants present; a deadly combination of propofol--the same drug that killed Michael Jackson--along with benzodiazepines had shut down Kane's respiratory system. When she was taken to the hospital, doctors diagnosed her as brain dead. A few days later, her daughter, Tanisha Mitchell, took the 57-year-old off life support.

Mitchell filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the center's owner, Dr. Thomas Teich, and Friedberg; Orange County jurors found both men guilty of wrongful death two years later on May 22, 2012. Teich did not have a permit to administer oral conscious sedation, while Friedberg had been unregistered with the Dental Board of California for administering general anesthesia to dental patients.

"I would think you don't expect to go in for dental implants and be overdosed on propofol and die especially when that patient has gone in thinking [he or she] will get drugs like valium," said Mitchell's attorney Jeffrey Wolf of Heimanson and Wolf, LLP in Los Angeles.

The verdict outlined $635,000 for pain and suffering damages, but was then reduced to $250,000 per California's cap on non-economic damages. Both men will equally split the cost.

Teich, who still practices in Newport Beach, is not unfamiliar to malpractice lawsuits. He has been charged with medical malpractice twice before in California, and is currently involved in 13 other malpractice cases.

Teich moved to California from Arizona several years after the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners revoked his license in August, 1994 due to insurance fraud, repeated acts of gross negligence and unprofessional conduct among other charges. He spent eight months in federal prison for committing the felony of mail fraud, according to a stipulation agreement.

Six years later, he got his license back on a probationary basis in 1999, during which he applied and obtained a California dental license in 2002. Even after the move, the malpractice suits piled up against Teich, to the point that Richard DeCuir, executive officer of the state's dental board, filed a complaint requesting the board revoke Teich's license, citing record of failing to upkeep medical records, personal injury against patients, unprofessional conduct and gross negligence again.

DeCuir filed the complaint in April, 2011; four months later, Teich paid $72,400 in an arbitration award to a former patient for injury including nerve damage in another lawsuit. DeCuir's accusations are currently still pending a decision according to Russ Heimerich, spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The Medical Board of California has not subjected Friedberg to any disciplinary actions. Friedberg, who describes himself as "your friendly, neighborhood anesthesiologist" on his website, continues to practice anesthesiology, and run a private, nonprofit foundation called Goldilocks Anesthesia. He authored Getting Over, Going Under: 5 Things You Must Know Before Anesthesia, and spoke about anesthesia to various outlets during the Michael Jackson trial.

As of press time, attorneys for Teich or Friedberg did not return calls or emails for comments.

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7 comments
hawkroof
hawkroof

Are you kidding this Dr. Teich is a crook and a killer and big time fraud I paid a lot of money and have not had my work complete now I have to find someone who will finish the work and repay money.  went to my original dentist he said bad job and he would not do the work because he doesn't have the post in right on top of that at the time of surgery the second day they put me into shock I guess I was lucky I got out of there matter of fact I didn't know anything after I started going into shock but my husband says they couldn't get me out of there fast enough. This man has already killed a couple people did time for fraud how he every got his license in California is beyond me there are a lot of people he has left hanging took our money and ran and I'm not talking chump change I'm talking thousands I paid over $20,000.00 so I'm hoping everyone get together and this man get Prosecuted to the fullest get him behind bars out of his fancy cars and lifestyle we all paid for.

dental implants
dental implants

dental implants are ideal to replace missing teeth..lovely site and nice links too....

Buttercup
Buttercup

 Are you kidding me with this apologist comment? Do yourself a favor and check YELP for  an eye opener into this guys practice. "Smile" is nothing more than a Dentist idea of a USED CAR SALESMAN. His lack of compassion and numerous malpractice suits speak for itself. Sell crazy elsewhere, the guys a danger to public health and safety.

Mary Dimaano
Mary Dimaano

 The image of a "man roaming the country doing Evil" is a pretty strong cliche.  Is every surgery performed ultimately providing more harm than good, and thereby "doing evil".   As with any other health professional, dentists, just like physicians, take an oath to serve in the best interest of their patients and the public. The majority of these patients are going into these types of offices for cosmetic work and those that aren't, are looking to remediate defects and damages from other dentists' work.   There needs to be distinctions between true malpractice and defeated patient expectations. For example, you want that new convertible and when you finally drive that convertible it's not the same "look" as you imagined.   Yes, this is not equivalent to one's life and oral health, but its the same analogy when speaking about oral cosmetic surgery with some patient's predetermined expectations.  Similarly, how many patients that consult with plastic surgeons seeking breast implants and Botox injections ultimately sue their physician?   We also should look at the amount of successful patients walking out of this practice in comparison to all these suits.   With high volume practices, is there an inherent susceptibility to malpractice suits?   Here's a journal publication from 1999 discussing physician malpractice http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0689/is_1_48/ai_53728225/

Buttercup
Buttercup

 By the way, I realize he went to jail for "Mail Fraud" but wouldn't you think the harm he has done to patients usurp a "Mail Fraud" conviction?...sheesh

Buttercup
Buttercup

Shouldn't "DR."  Thomas Teich be considered a REAL threat to life and safety? My God, the man roams the country doing Evil, Incompetent work and nothing happens to him other than fines?. I would think patients who have been harmed would be able to SUE the Medical Board of California AND the Department of Consumer Affairs.for not acting in the best interest of the public.

newmyr
newmyr

Classic case of speaking from ignorance. People are complaining about this dental office and doctor, not because the cosmetic aspect of the work performed didn't meet their expectations. They are complaining about the shoddy workmanship, the bait and switch, the lies, the taking of our money then not delivering the service or product paid for, they are complaining about . . . can you say fraud? I know because I've been there, experienced it for myself and listened to the other patients complain of the same things I had been experiencing from this office for over a year.  

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