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Dental patient left brain-damaged after fentanyl overdose

A Miami woman was left with severe brain damage and in need of around-the-clock care after a terminally ill anesthesiologist gave her a “huge dose” of fentanyl during what her husband’s lawsuit claims was “unnecessary” dental surgery.

Maria Lugo Querales narrowly escaped death on May 10, 2022, when her heart stopped beating and she could not breathe, after Dr. Jerry Teague allegedly administered to her excessive amounts of anesthesia drugs without intubating her first, according to the civil medical malpractice complaint filed by the patient’s husband, Luis Espana.

Lugo had traveled to the dental practice Nunnally, Freeman and Owens, in Marble Falls, Texas, to undergo a procedure on “alleged ‘cavitations’ and the extraction of an asymptomatic root canal-treated tooth,” the lawsuit alleges.

Maria Lugo Querales has been living in a specialized care facility since 2022, when she nearly died during a dental procedure. gofundme
Lugo, from Miami, traveled to Texas to undergo an elective surgery on her root-canaled teeth. Facebook/Maria Elena Lugo Querales

In preparation for the surgery, Lugo was treated with about 400 grams of fentanyl — a powerful narcotic used for severe pain — along with the sedative midazolam and the anesthetic lidocaine, according to a police report previously cited by San Antonio Express-News.

Dr. Robert Ertner, an anesthesiologist from California who is not involved in Lugo’s case, told the news outlet in April 2023 that “400 micrograms of fentanyl is a huge dose for somebody who is having a tooth extracted.”

Teague, who worked as an anesthesiologist at the Marble Falls clinic, administered the cocktail of drugs to Lugo a day after he was reported missing by his wife, having failed to return from an evening stroll.

Teague’s wife told the police that her husband was suffering “cognitive issues” because he was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told that he had less than a year to live, according to Espana’s lawsuit.

Dr. Jerry Teague, left, who was dying from cancer, allegedly administered to Lugo large amounts of anesthesia drugs without intubating her first. Facebook/Jerry Teague

Teague returned home just 45 minutes after being reported missing, telling his wife and the cops that he had become dehydrated and disoriented.

He refused to go to a hospital.

The following morning, Teague’s wife drove him to work at the clinic because she did not want to risk a repeat of the events from the day before, according to the court filing.

Lugo, who was Teague’s only patient that day, did not know about his vanishing act, and neither Teague nor the dentists obtained her informed consent for the anesthesia, the lawsuit alleges.

Teague failed to intubate Lugo, who overdosed on the anesthesia drugs “without airway protection,” the court filings said.

The scheduled dental surgery was canceled as the patient was rushed by paramedics to St. David’s Medical Center in Austin.

Marble Falls Police Department photo of fentanyl bottles in the room where Maria Lugo was sedated.
Marble Falls Police Department

Just two weeks after the bungled dental appointment, Teague succumbed to cancer.

He was 70 years old.

Lugo currently lives in a neurological rehabilitation facility in Florida, where she receives 24-hour care.

She breathes through a tracheotomy and is fed through a tube.

Espana is suing the dental office and dentists Dr. Lane Freeman and Dr. Stuart Nunnally for negligence, accusing them of “offering, planning and performing unnecessary dental surgery” and causing her to be sedated “for no valid reason” — claims the doctors have denied.

According to the complaint, Lugo had decided to seek treatment at the Texas clinic after hearing about it through Dr. Ludwig Johnson, an Instagram influencer with 1.9 million followers who featured Freeman and Nunnally in a YouTube video that talked about the purported risks associated with root canals.

“They told the audience that ‘cavitations’ are wounds in the mouth where teeth have been pulled, such as wisdom teeth, where toxicity can rival that of a gangrenous wound,” according to Espana’s recent court filing.

Espana claimed in an affidavit that after watching the three doctors, his wife became convinced that “her lack of energy, depression, heart issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid issues were likely caused by her root canal-treated tooth and the spaces below her pulled teeth, which they called cavitations.”

“These doctors convinced her that she had dental issues that were creating auto-immune issues leading to these health challenges,” Espana argued, saying that it drove her decision to undergo the elective treatment.

Lugo’s heart stopped beating and she could not breathe, resulting in severe damage to her brain, according to a lawsuit filed by her husband, Luis Espana, left. Facebook/Maria Elena Lugo Querales

But he maintained that there was “no evidence on accepted sound, reliable and valid scientific medical knowledge or research that the surgery was necessary.”

The dentists argued in a response filing that potential risks were discussed with Lugo before she “consented to the recommended care.”

They also claimed that her injuries were the result of a “preexisting medical condition” and “a failed attempted general anesthesia.”

What happened to the patient, according to the defendants, was an “unavoidable accident in that it was not proximately caused by the culpable negligence of any party to this action.”

The practice also sought to distance itself from Teague, describing him as a “independent contractor” — although Espana’s lawsuit noted that he was listed as the practice’s staff anesthesiologist.

Questions have been raised about Teague’s professional history, which included lawsuits and a suspension in 2016, when he was barred from practicing medicine by the State Board of Dental Examiners for three years after his hair follicle tested positive for fentanyl and midazolam.

The doctor had stolen the drugs, for which he had no prescriptions, from the supply he kept for patients, according to a report.

The board wrote that Teague’s continued practice of dental anesthesiology “would constitute a clear, imminent or continuing threat to a person’s physical health and well-being.”

Teague’s suspension ended in 2019, the same year he was hired by the Marble Falls clinic.

Espana is seeking unspecified damages from the dental practice and the doctors, after reaching a confidential settlement with Teague’s estate last month.

Written by SaleemBaloch

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