An Enfield dentist is fighting to keep his career after one patient died shortly after surgery and another almost died under his care.
The state Dental Commission held its first day of hearings over the license of Dr. Rashmi Patel today in Hartford to decide whether or not the Enfield- and Torrington-based dentist will retain his license. Patel was suspended in April following an investigation by the state Department of Public Health.
Defense attorneys for Patel estimate the dentist has performed anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 dental procedures throughout his career, but his decision making surrounding two cases in particular have put his practice and reputation on the line.
Investigators allege that in one instance, Patel ignored pleas from his dental assistants to stop working and administer emergency medication to 64-year-old Judith Gan of Ellington, who was having 20 teeth extracted and six implants added.
Gan suffered a heart attack during the procedure. She was rushed to a hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she died a short time later.
“How can any dentist continue to do any dental work on a patient who is in such severe crisis?” asked Dept. of Public Health attorney David Tilles at the hearing. “Any dentist has to recognize these problems, has to respond to protect the patient.”
Another patient, a 55-year-old man, nearly choked to death on a throat pack while under conscious sedation in December.
Other allegations include claims that Patel has allowed at least five medications to expire.
Patel’s attorneys argue that the allegations are false and say the evidence and witnesses testifying against him are not credible. Defense attorney Michael Kogut referred to them as “charges that are unsupported by medical and empirical data.”
Patel spoke briefly following the proceedings and believes that when all the evidence has been presented, he will be vindicated.
“I feel awful about what Michael Gan and his family are feeling at this point, hearing what happened in the media,” Patel said. “I really want to give my deepest sympathies to them.”
Rick Kenny, an attorney representing the Gans, said the family is waiting for all the details to come out before deciding whether to pursue a civil suit.
The next hearing is scheduled for July 16.