February 23, 2024

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Texas ex-dentist sentenced for botched surgery on 4-year-old

Former Houston dentist Bethaniel Jefferson appears in front of judge Marc Carter in the 228th District Court at the Harris County Courthouse Monday, July 31, 2017, in Houston. Jefferson was found guilty Wednesday, September 13, 2023 of one charge of recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child by omission.

HCSTAFF / Godofredo A. Vásquez

UPDATE: Friday, September 15 

Bethaniel Jefferson, the ex-Houston dentist convicted Wednesday of recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child by omission following a botched surgery that left a 4-year-old with permanent brain damage, has been sentenced.   

Jefferson received five years of probation Thursday evening for the 2016 procedure on then-4-year-old Neveah Hall,  according to Houston Public Media. Jefferson’s dental license was revoked after the 2016 surgery and she was later found liable for $95 million in damages—though the Hall family’s attorney said they won’t be able to receive the payout because Jefferson’s malpractice insurance doesn’t cover that amount. 

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The surgery left Neveah unable to speak, walk or eat on her own, her family told Houston Public Media. 

“It’s very disappointing because she gets to walk free, live her life going about her business,” Clara Clark, Neveah’s grandmother,  told press after the sentencing Thursday evening. “But we have Neveah here that, you know, we didn’t get to see her start school. You know, we don’t get to see her walk around and play,” Clarked continued, adding “I think the decision was very unfair and justice was not served,” per Houston Public Media. 

Read more about Neveah’s case and the criminal trial below: 

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A Houston dentist has been convicted of a criminal charge for a botched 2016 procedure that left a young girl with permanent brain damage. 

Bethaniel Jefferson on Wednesday was found guilty of one charge of recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child by omission, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Nicole Hensley. The case stems from a January 2016 surgery Jefferson performed on then-4-year-old Neveah Hall that kept her anesthetized for almost a whole day while her blood oxygen levels tanked, leading to irreversible brain damage. 

Per officials, Neveah, now 11, started having seizures around 11:15 a.m. the morning of 2016—after which Jefferson waited five more hours before calling 911 according to the Chronicle’s Hensley. She called a pastor and a pharmacist before EMTs were summoned to her dental practice in the 15000 block of Kuykendal Road, per Hensley’s review of court records. 

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A Houston Chronicle investigation published soon after the disastrous surgery detailed allegations that dentists overused sedative drugs and physical restraints on pediatric patients. The alleged abuses occur primarily at clinics who treat a large number of low-income kids like Neveah whose procedures are funded by Medicaid. The investigation revealed that Texas surpassed the rest of the U.S. in ongoing Medicaid dental fraud investigations.

A Houston jury also found Jefferson’s Diamond Dental practice liable for $95 million worth of harm as a result of malpractice in a 2022 civil court verdict. Most of the damages haven’t been paid out because Jefferson’s malpractice insurance didn’t cover that amount, per the Chronicle’s Hensley.