Fifteen individuals who were treated at the dental office of Dr. John Vecchione in Budd Lake between 2012 and 2014 suffered from bacterial endocarditis. Twelve of the patients required heart surgery and one died, according to the release.
“This settlement brings closure to a troubling case in which a medical professional allegedly took irresponsible risks with patients’ health by disregarding health and safety standards,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in the release. “We are committed to ensuring that medical practitioners do not flout professional standards in place to protect patients’ health and safety.”
The string of bacterial infections was diagnosed as endocarditis of the aortic heart valve after patients suffered symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, leading them to seek hospital care, according to the complaint. Patients who saw Vecchione for tooth extractions and no prior cardiac history ended up having heart surgery. At least four of the patients who were forced to undergo heart operations were under the age of 26, the complaint shows.
A single tooth extraction led a 54-year-old male with no prior cardiac history to his death in 2013, according to the complaint. After complaining of fever, night sweats and weight loss following an oral surgery procedure by Vecchione, the patient was admitted to the hospital where an ultrasound of his heart showed “vegetation” of his valves. He underwent heart valve replacement surgery, but died from a post-operative heart infection. The underlying cause was “complications of enterococcus endocarditis,” according to the complaint.
“Dr. Vecchione spent years denying any responsibility for the infections contracted by patients in his care,” Howard Pine, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs said in Monday’s press release.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the dental licensing board, wouldn’t specify whether the suspension is a standard procedure considering the allegations Vecchione faces. “Each case is fact sensitive, with each resolution based on the law, the undisputed facts, and the proofs of each case,” a DCA spokesperson told CNN.
Vecchione’s attorneys did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.