A State Supreme Court jury awarded $750,000 to the parents of a 3-year-old Brooklyn boy who, on his first trip to the dentist in 1974, was given a lethal dose of fluoride at a city dental clinic and then ignored for nearly five hours in the waiting rooms of a pediatric clinic and Brookdale Hospital while his mother pleaded for help, and he lapsed into a coma and died.
Mrs Kennedy testified that she took William, born on February 7, 1971, for his first dental checkup on May 24, 1974 to the Brownsville Dental Health Center, a city clinic at 259 Bristol Street.
There, he was examined by Dr. George, who found no dental caries and turned the boy over to Miss Cohen, a dental hygienist, for routine teeth-cleaning. After cleaning William’s teeth, witnesses explained, Miss Cohen, using a swab, spread a stannous fluoride jell over the boy’s teeth as a decay-preventive.
According to Mrs. Kennerly, Miss Cohen was engrossed in conversation while working on William and, after handing him a cup of water, failed to instruct him to wash his mouth out and spit out the solution. Mrs. Kennerly said William drank the water.
According to a Nassau County toxicologist, Dr. Jesse Bidanset, William ingested 45 cubic centimeters of 2 percent stannous fluoride solution, triple an amount sufficient to have been fatal.
William began vomiting, sweating and complaining of headache and dizziness. His mother, appealing to the dentist, was told the child had been given only routine treatment. But she was not satisfied, and was sent to the Brookdale Ambulatory Pediatric Care Unit in the same building.
Mrs. Kennerly testified that she had waited there two and a half hours, appealing for help, as her son became progressively more sick, lapsing into what she thought was sleep, but actually a coma.
Finally taken into an examination room, the boy was seen by Dr. Bathia, who summoned a supervisor. They injected adrenaline into the boy’s heart to revive him. An ambulance took him to Brookdale Hospital, a five-minute drive away.
There, William and his mother waited more than an hour. By then, he had lapsed back into a coma, and as doctors attempted to pump his stomach, he went into cardiac arrest, and died at 2:10 p.m.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
June 9, 1977
Blame City, Hospital in Boy’s Death
By Daniel O’Grady
A 3-year-old Brooklyn boy who died of an overdose of fluoride after treatment at a city dental clinic was the victim of medical malpractice according to a Brooklyn Supreme Court malpractice screening panel. The boy’s family is suing for $1 million.
By unanimous vote, the panel, made up of Supreme Court Justice John Monteleone, Dr. Clifford Cohen and attorney Jack Sternglass, found the city and Brookdale Hospital guilty of medical malpractice in the case of William Kennerly, who died of the fatal dose of fluoride on May 24, 1974.
His mother, Inez Kennergy, 42, of 300 Dumont Ave., Brownsville, Brooklyn, had taken William to the Brownsville Dental Health Center, 259 Bristol St., for routine dental work. Mrs. Kennerly and her husband, Clay, a transit worker, have seven other children.
Lapse Into Coma
Center workers smeared a fluoride paste, which is safe when applied in small amounts, on William’s teeth and he became violently ill shortly afterwards. William, according to evidence presented to the panel, started vomiting and sweating and complained of headaches and then lapsed into a coma in his mother’s arms.
She rushed the child into the Brookdale pediatric care unit, which was in the same building. The distraught mother and the sick child had to wait three hours for treatment, it was charged. Later, Mrs. Kennerly took William to nearby Brookdale Hospital, where, it was said, they had to wait another hour and a half.
William died two hours after arriving at the hospital. An autopsy revealed that he died from an overdose of fluoride.
A doctor testifying on behalf of the Kennerlys told the panel that the boy’s life could have been saved merely by giving him a glass of salt water.