Suit filed over Blue Island teen’s death after root canal
SUN-TIMES MEDIA November 20, 2012 10:02AM
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:20AM
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a Chicago-area dental chain on behalf of a Blue Island teen who died after undergoing a root canal last year.
Christopher Schutzius, 17, went to the Blue Island office of Dental Dreams in the 12200 block of Western Avenue on Feb. 1, 2011, after he lost a filling while eating a piece of caramel, relatives said at the time.
He underwent root canal surgery, and complained of feeling sick four days later, his foster mother Laura Serna said after his death. He was rushed to the hospital Feb. 8, 2011, after his condition worsened, and he died the next day.
Schutzius died of sepsis, a toxic infection he contracted after root canal surgery, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Monday’s lawsuit claims negligence against Dental Dreams and Dr. Jungah Ko, who allegedly performed the operation.
The suit claims the doctor used the wrong size of files on infected tissue during the procedure, and failed to properly drain and seal the tooth, which spread the infection.
It further claims the entire pulp of his tooth was removed instead of just the infected tissue, and that the clinic did not use a rubber dental dam or other devices, allegedly contributing to a “non-sterile environment.”
To die from sepsis after root canal “is extremely rare because it just doesn’t happen,” expert Dr. Christopher Wenckus told the SouthtownStar after the boy’s death.
“It happens maybe once every 50 years,” said Wenckus who heads the endodontics (root canal therapy) department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dentist Sameera Hussain, who owns clinic, released a statement immediately after Schutzius’ death saying the clinic was “shocked” and that Dental Dreams was conducting a “thorough review of his treatment.”
A message left at Dental Dreams’ administrative office seeking comment on the suit and on the outcome of their review was not immediately returned Monday.
Ko has been licensed to practice dentistry in Illinois since 2010, and no disciplinary action has ever been taken against her, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website. She could not be reached at the Blue Island clinic Monday night.
David Gubbins, an administrator for Schutzius’ estate, filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court. The suit claims wrongful death and negligence, and seeks an unspecified amount in damages, plus medical and funeral expenses.
Schutzius was a senior at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, and would have graduated in May 2011.
He had entered foster care in 2008, and was living with his foster parents in Blue Island along with a younger brother and sister, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said at the time. DCFS on Tuesday said it concluded its investigation into his death on Jan. 3 and determined there was neglect by his foster mother. His siblings were then moved into another foster home.