In December 2017, 2-year-old Zion Gastelum’s parents took him to the Kool Smiles dental clinic in Yuma, Arizona, to get some cavities taken care of.
The dentist told the family that the toddler needed root canals and crowns to fix his teeth, so the parents agreed to treatment, according to Yahoo Lifestyle.
Zion was placed under general anesthesia for about 35 minutes to have the dental work done — but he’d never wake up.
Zion’s mother walked into the room after the procedure and noted her son appeared unresponsive, according to court documents.
Mom Veronica Gastelum noticed the heart rate monitor showed no pulse, but the staff allegedly told her that the machine didn’t work on children.
It wasn’t until the mom pointed out that he wasn’t breathing that paramedics were called.
Zion was rushed to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and was pronounced dead four days later, according to ABC 15.
Now, his parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kool Smiles, alleging that Zion was left alone in the recovery room after his procedure.
The documents state that the 2-year-old was hooked up to an oxygen machine that wasn’t working or was empty and that he died due to lack of oxygen to the brain.
His official autopsy listed his cause of death as “undetermined.”
The family’s lawsuit claims that the boy could have been treated with a less invasive procedure.
Their lawsuit comes after a January 2018 false claims lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department against Kool Smiles.
The Justice Department alleged that Kool Smiles was instructing children of low-income families to get unnecessary procedures and submitting false claims to Medicaid.
The lawsuit read:
The United States alleges that Kool Smiles clinics routinely pressured and incentivized dentists to meet production goals through a system that disciplined ‘unproductive’ dentists and awarded ‘productive’ dentists with substantial cash bonuses based on the revenue generated by the procedures they performed.
… Exploiting needy children for financial gain is inexcusable.
Ultimately, Kool Smiles agreed to pay a $24 million to the Justice Department in a settlement. However, Zion’s family are still fighting. His mother told ABC 15:
“Everybody just is broken.”