If my wife had a broken piece of a dental drill bit in her gums, would this qualify for medical malpractice?

My wife had a root canal done 8 years ago and since then has had horribly bad breath and pain in her mouth. She recently gave in to the pain and saw a new dentist. The dentist realized the root canal wasn’t performed correctly. They redid the root canal and found a piece of drill bit that had broken off and been there since the original surgery.

Asked on May 25, 2012 under Malpractice Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Your wife may have a viable malpractice case. Leaving a foreign object in a patient's body is usually malpractice (except in the case of objects that should be left there, like surgical staples, or ones which are deemed harmless, like sutures that dissolve). Normally, a malpractice action must be brought within 7 years of the surgery, or within 3 years of when the injury is discovered, whichever comes first; however, MA does not put the 7 year limit on "foreign object" malpractice. So long as your wife institues a lawsuit within 3 years of realizing that a piece of drill bit had been left behind, she may be able to recover for pain and suffering and new medical costs. From what you write, it would be well worthwhile for her to consult with a malpractice attorney.

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