9 Investigates

9 Investigates: State seeks to strip dentist of license after boy dies in surgery

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health wants to strip a local dentist of his license over the death of a teenage boy.

Power's parents are in the middle of a civil lawsuit against the dentist, Dr. Steven Baxter, Kissimmee Family Dentistry -- where the procedure occurred -- and its founder, Dr. C. Michael Turner. Power was brain dead for two days.

Baxter's short notes show that Power was given Midazolam and Demerol to sedate him during a procedure to have eight teeth removed.

Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones obtained a recording of Baxter's deposition, which was given as part of the civil lawsuit.

"I went around the side and grabbed my stethoscope and listened to his chest and could not hear any breath sounds, couldn't hear any heartbeat, couldn't feel a pulse," Baxter said.

Baxter told attorneys for the Power family that he did not take Power's blood pressure at that point, according to the deposition. But his assistant, who had no formal training in conscious sedation procedures and graduated from trade school just months earlier, had helped him monitor Power's vitals every five minutes throughout the procedure, he said during the questioning by attorneys.

Baxter also described how they tried to awaken Power. The primary dentist in the office, who was not responsible for treating Power, helped aid in resuscitation efforts, applying oxygen and instructing someone in the office to call 911, Baxter said during the deposition.

"Trying the pain to wake him up, jostling him, saying his name. And then, kind of, out of the blue, the -- the oxygen started to go down into the 70s," Baxter said.

Baxter no longer practices at Kissimmee Family Dentistry, where Christopher Power had surgery. But because the dental board hasn't acted on his license, Baxter practices at a dental office in Orlando and has since applied for a license to practice in Ohio.

The state of Ohio has granted him a license, but it is probationary and he has agreed to not apply for a sedation or anesthesia permit in the state.

The Florida DOH has issued an administrative complaint against Baxter, which determined that he failed to render CPR until emergency services arrived.

According to the complaint, Baxter kept no required written records during the procedure, including Power's medical history, physical and risk assessment, and baseline vital signs, including blood pressure and pulse.

In the deposition, Baxter disputes that, saying that his assistant -- who had no formal training in conscious sedation procedures and who graduated from trade school months earlier -- reminded him to check Power's vitals every five minutes.

"It's just kind of look at it and write the numbers down, get back to another pair of gloves on and -- and get to work," Baxter said during the deposition.

Florida is among many states that allow general dentists to perform oral surgery under sedation with only a supplemental certification that can be earned by attending a few weekend courses.

There is no requirement for a trained anesthesiologist to be present, leaving the dentist to monitor critical vitals and oversee surgery -- a procedure that Baxter told Power's parents would come with minimal risks.

"It's relatively standard, you know... Yes, he'll hurt. Yes, he'll be on pain medication for probably 24 hours -- on prescription pain medication for 24 hours. Yes, he’ll probably need over-the-counter medication for the next day or two, his -- might swell; expect some bleeding," Baxter said.

An Osceola County judge has denied a motion that would have removed Kissimmee Family Dentistry and Turner from liability in the civil lawsuit.

Baxter is contesting the charges in the administrative complaint, but a hearing date hasn't been scheduled.