A former Texas dentist was sentenced to probation last week for botching a routine dental procedure that left a 4-year-old girl with permanent brain damage – and her family is outraged.
Bethaniel Jefferson, 46, received the “slap on the wrist” after a jury found her guilty of one count of recklessly causing bodily injury to Nevaeh Hall by failing to call 911 for nearly five hours after the child suffered a seizure, FOX26 reported.
Nevaeh, now 11, can no longer see, speak, walk or eat.
“It’s just not fair. Obviously, she should be doing jail time and not just one or two years. She should be in there for a really long time,” the girl’s mother, Courissa Clark, told the local news station.
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The child’s grandmother, Clara Clark, read a victim impact statement at the sentencing after waiting eight years for justice.
“The right thing to do was to call 911, but you refused to do so even though you knew she was in trouble. I would even say it was an accident but when you refused to seek help it became a crime,” she told FOX26.
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“Now that Nevaeh is in the condition she’s in it’s been a living hell emotionally, physically, mentally and financially,” she added in an interview after the proceeding.
Jefferson sedated Nevaeh to clean out the decayed pulp and crown some of her teeth in January 2016, but the little girl began “shaking violently” and suffered several seizures, according to a decision to revoke Jefferson’s license.
Instead of calling 911, Jefferson tried to treat her with more sedatives, which caused the girl to vomit. For nearly five hours, Nevaeh’s blood oxygen level was critically low, her body was cold and she continued to seize.
But Jefferson, who repeatedly called her pastor and the pharmacy to ask about drug interactions, did not call for an ambulance until 4:30 p.m.
The day after Nevaeh was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital, an ER doctor found that her vitals were stable but she was in a “stuporous state,” according to the board’s decision.
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She didn’t open her eyes or respond to any external stimuli. The lack of oxygen to her brain caused devastating damage. For the rest of her life, she will need 24-hour care, the board decision noted.
The ER doctor reported Jefferson to the dental board, and the former dentist took responsibility at a hearing for her failure.
The family was awarded $95.5 million after filing a civil lawsuit, but the sum was not paid in full because it exceeded Jefferson’s malpractice insurance coverage, according to the Houston Chronicle.
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Nevaeh’s father was stunned by the lenient punishment.
“It’s really difficult. It’s real difficult. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Our daughter’s life is changed forever,” Derrick Hall told FOX26. “Her life needs to be changed forever too. She gets a slap on the wrist? Come on now. That’s not right. It’s not right.”